EWhen it comes to European defense, there are the big speeches – those of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, or the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz –, the big programs, like that of the plane or the tank of the future, and the little traps that say a lot about the current climate. The French industrialist Safran, one of the leading aeronautical equipment manufacturers in the world, has just been a victim. On Monday, November 20, he revealed that the Italian government was opposed to his acquisition of the Italian company Microtecnica. A small company, born in 1929 and with three factories that manufacture equipment for fighter planes and helicopters.
To oppose the operation, Rome used the weapon of its “golden power”, a device approved by the European Union, which allows a country to block a defense operation in the name of national sovereignty. The strangest thing about this affair is that Microtecnica is… American. It is the subsidiary of the Collins group, itself integrated into the giant RTX (formerly Raytheon-UTC). In other words, Italy is blocking the purchase by a Frenchman of an American company.
Hence the astonishment at Safran, which immediately takes out its European flag. Especially since in the official reasons for the refusal, in addition to the protection of Italian jobs, the risk of disruption to the supply of spare parts for the Eurofighter combat aircraft appears first. A danger mentioned by Germany, the first buyer of this European plane.
The Frenchman may remind us that he is also a supplier of parts for this same device, but nothing helps. He’ll get over it. The purchase of Microtecnica is the consequence of the agreement reached in July with Collins for the acquisition by Safran of its flight control systems business in Europe, of which the Italian represents only 15%.
The reason for this European failure is to be found in the increasingly greater ambitions of Italy but also of Germany to develop their defense industry, France’s area of excellence in Europe. As a result, any French incursion to buy companies or to work together is experienced as a hegemonic temptation. We then prefer the American cousin, who also offers NATO protection, or even the Koreans, who are a hit in Europe.
So, the Germans prefer Lockheed Martin’s F-35 to Dassault’s Rafale and are going after the latter on the combat aircraft of the future SCAF. As for the Italians, they decided to join forces with the British on the competing Tempest program, piloted by British Aerospace. The rearmament of Europe in the face of geopolitical risks on its borders, instead of pushing for unity, results in the opposite. The reign of every man for himself.