France and Germany called for an urgent solution yesterday to the funding crisis surrounding the A400M troop plane, Europe’s biggest military project, as Airbus resumed talks with government buyers.
The €20bn (£17.4bn) project is four years late and €11.2bn over budget, threatening up to 10,000 jobs.
EADS unit Airbus is appealing to a group of seven NATO nations for billions of euros in extra support to start full production of the plane, which first flew in December, but governments are reluctant to let taxpayers foot the whole bill.
“Everything must be done to reach a solution. It is a decisive project which must be resolved very quickly,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after a Franco-German summit. “With regards to the A400M project, I think that the negotiations should be continued, and we agreed that this is a project of strategic significance, and that everything should be done to find a solution,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
The two leaders were speaking at a news conference after a regular summit but stopped short of issuing a formal statement.
Their comments came as Airbus resumed talks with European defence officials in Berlin in a frantic bid to prevent the runaway costs killing off Europe’s largest defence project.
The A400M has been held up by engine and other technical problems, sparking testy exchanges between Germany, its biggest projected buyer, and Toulouse-based Airbus.