Pooling & Sharing is absolutely central to the Agency's work. Through it, Member States can see the immediate benefits of European defence cooperation on frontline and logistical projects. By pooling resources and sharing the results, Europe is better defended.
The September 2010 meeting of European defence ministers in Ghent provided a crucial impetus to European defence cooperation under the rubric of Pooling & Sharing. The EDA was mandated to develop the concept and to bring forward the relevant projects. At the March 2012 Steering Board meeting, the Agency's successes thus far were recognized, and it was tasked to develop Pooling & Sharing further.
Pooling & Sharing priorities
One key Pooling & Sharing priority for the next few years is air-to-air refueling. The existing capability gap was confirmed in operations over Libya, where European states relied heavily on US support. Indeed, there is a high level of fragmentation, with a large number of different tanker makes and models in operation. Ministers endorsed a political declaration in March 2012, committing themselves to continued efforts in this area of Pooling & Sharing, and work continues at the EDA. Ultimately, the EDA will support the project from acquisition to deployment.
Another project which is well under way seeks to establish modular, multinational medical field hospitals. A Declaration of Intent was signed on this project in March 2012, and a pre-deployment training centre should be delivered by 2014. The breadth of Pooling & Sharing initiatives currently being facilitated by the EDA is testament to the Agency’s flexibility and expertise, and bodes well for future such projects.
Current Agency priorities also include developing maritime surveillance capabilities, a project in which 14 states will take part, and a European Satellite Communications Procurement Cell. In January 2012, a project led by the Republic of Ireland got underway to review naval training across the 11 participating Member States, seeking to deliver value for money through reducing duplication. The highly successful EDA-facilitated air training exercises will continue, incorporating ever more Member States, and covering both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
Four other Pooling & Sharing strands are also being addressed: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, future military satellite communications, smart munitions, and naval logistics. These will sit alongside other longer-term EDA projects in cybersecurity and efficient procurement methods, as well as pilot initiatives such as Go Green, which aims to reduce costs and dependence on fossil fuel sources.
The future of Pooling & Sharing
The dynamics that have produced serious defence cooperation are here to stay: budgets will be constrained for many years, but Europe will still need to defend itself and its values. EDA has made good progress, but there is much still to do. Still more political investment, from ministers and their citizens, will be necessary to sustain the Agency's work, and to help prepare European forces for the challenges of the coming decades.