This paper examines the emergence of EU-level, binding rules in defence industrial matters, underpinning the nascent European Defence Equipment Market (EDEM). This represents a remarkable and unprecedented development, as this policy area has traditionally constituted the core of nation state sovereignty, and been immune to integration attempts in the past. This paper focuses on the role of EU’s transnational defence firms in pushing the member states finally to bow to existing economic pressures and accept limitations placed on their sovereignty by an increasingly institutionalised EDEM. First providing an overview of the EU defence industrial consolidation process that has created these so-called primary contractors (primes), this paper then demonstrates that defence firms stood to benefit from defence procurement harmonisation measures and would have an interest in their implementation. A case is made for the Council as the locus of decision-making power in this regard, attracting the bulk of industrial lobbying activity, both directly and indirectly, via the so-called “national route.” The final picture, however, is more complex than “simple” industrial lobbying, as the primes’ impact appears to have been conditioned by other key actors and developments in this policy area, primarily the European Commission, several member states, and CSDP dynamics.
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