The European Defence Agency was established under a Joint Action of the Council of Ministers on 12 July, 2004, "to support the Member States and the Council in their effort to improve European defence capabilities in the field of crisis management and to sustain the European Security and Defence Policy as it stands now and develops in the future”. On 12 July 2011, the Council adopted a Decision defining the statute, seat and operational rules of the European Defence Agency. This Council decision replaced the Council Joint Action.
The European Defence Agency, within the overall mission set out in the Joint Action, is ascribed four functions, covering:
- developing defence capabilities;
- promoting Defence Research and Technology (R&T);
- promoting armaments co-operation;
- creating a competitive European Defence Equipment Market and strengthening the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base.
These four main tasks form the chain for capability development, from defining requirements via research and armaments cooperation to industrial supply. This integrated approach contributes to coherent capability development, where demand and supply are optimally connected in order to save time and costs for Member States. More collaboration will, in turn, provide opportunities for the European defence industry. The Agency also supports Ministries of Defence in their interactions with other European institutions and keeps them up-to-date regarding wider EU policies that have implications for defence.
EDA acts as a catalyst, promotes collaborations, launches new initiatives and introduces solutions to improve defence capabilities. It is the place where Member States willing to develop capabilities in cooperation do so. It is also a key facilitator in developing the capabilities necessary to underpin the Common Security and Defence Policy of the Union.