Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Head of the European Defence Agency, published her final report in preparation of the European Council in December where Heads of State and Government will discuss security and defence topics.
The report follows the three clusters defined by President van Rompuy in December last year to guide the Council discussion: strengthening CSDP, enhancing defence capabilities, strengthening Europe’s defence industry. Mainly the second and third cluster include suggestions and proposals in EDA’s area of responsibility of which key points are highlighted here below.
Systematic and long-term European defence cooperation
Cooperation in the area of military capability is essential. The report asks for a strong impulse at European Council level, both to embed Pooling & Sharing in Member States’ defence planning and decision-making processes, and to deliver key capabilities through major projects. Key elements are more transparency between Member States, sharing of future plans for key capabilities and of lessons learned, rationalisation of demand as well as a push for harmonised requirements. Through the Code of Conduct on Pooling & Sharing EDA is ready to act as a framework of coordination and transparency to enhance and facilitate synergies and identify best practises. Systematic and long-term defence cooperation with agreed priorities and milestones could be supported by a strategic level Defence Roadmap. This roadmap could also lead the way to closer synergies with OCCAR, the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation. The report makes a case for incentives for defence cooperation which could include innovative financing arrangements as well as protecting cooperative projects and initiatives from budget cuts.
Commitment to major projects
Taking into account severe gaps in some capability areas, the report points out the need for Member States to commit to major projects in air-to-air refuelling, satellite communication, remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) and cyber defence. As regards air-to-air refuelling, EDA is already working on short, mid and long-term solutions to increase tanker/receivers interoperability and maximise the use of existing assets, the establishment of a multinational multirole tankers fleet, foreseen for 2020, is under way. Pioneer Projects have been promoted by EDA to develop capabilities that have both military and civil applications They are designed to harness synergies in the military and civil domains; maximise dual-use technologies; and generate economies of scale. Defence ministers have already endorsed proposals to prepare projects in the areas of remotely piloted aircraft systems and cyber defence. RPAS are very likely to constitute a key capability for the future with applications in the civil and the military domains. EDA is ready to prepare a programme for the next generation of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) RPAS. Such a programme needs to include regulatory aspects regarding insertion into normal airspace as well as technology development possibly through joint investment programme between the European Commission, EDA, Member States and the industry. In terms of governmental SATCOM, the report mentions the objective of a future dual civil-military capability by 2025 via a user-driven approach based on a detailed roadmap. As regards cyber defence, the objective is to establish a comprehensive European approach. EDA activities, based on the recently adopted cyber strategy, focus on realistic deliverables within its remit and expertise: training, exercises, protection of headquarters, and Cyber Defence Research Agenda (focusing on dual use technologies).
Strengthening Europe’s defence industry
In the chapter on measures to strengthen Europe’s defence industry a strong, healthy and globally competitive European Defence and Technological Industrial Base is acknowledged as a prerequisite for developing and sustaining defence capabilities and securing the strategic autonomy of Europe. Its importance for the wider economy is mentioned as well. This industrial base has to be safeguarded through substantive and strengthened cooperation at European level, including through major new cooperative programmes. While big industry plays a leading role in the defence sector, the defence supply chain and notably SMEs play a very important part and should be supported. EDA together with its Member States is also working on concrete measures to increase both short- and long-term Security of Supply, whether related to supply chains, European non-dependencies, raw materials, or investments in key industrial and technological capabilities. Some tangible measures EDA is already working on in cooperation with the European Commission and the European Aviation Safety Agency to improve competitiveness and to reduce development and production costs include standardisation, military airworthiness and certification.
European commitment to R&T
National defence research and development expenditure decreased substantially in the last years with possible negative impact on the long-term competitiveness of the European industry. Strong investment is needed if Europe is to retain its R&T expertise. Building on the list of critical defence technologies elaborated in the EDA framework, the technologies that need to be developed at the European level for defence, space, and the civil sector should be identified on a systematic basis to underpin long-term planning for European R&T. It will also ensure that Europe is addressing the challenge of technology non-dependence on a strategic level. The report therefore suggests that Member States should be encouraged to commit to multi-annual investment in defence R&T through cooperation. Synergies between civil and defence research for dual-use technologies should be exploited. EDA closely works with the European Commission and European Space Agency on dual use research; important areas of cooperation are key enabling technologies, critical space technologies, CBRN, cyber defence and RPAS.
- Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on her Final Report on the CSDP available here.
- The full report is available here.