2016 was a seminal moment for European defence and the European Defence Agency. A year that added a new sense of urgency and determination to European defence efforts. The Annual Report 2016 presents the main activities and achievements of the EDA across its full range of activities and projects. The report is free to access and is available for download here.
The Welcome Word by EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq sets the scene on what was a defining year for the EDA.
2016 was a seminal moment for European defence and a defining year for the European Defence Agency (EDA). The events that shaped 2016 added a new sense of urgency and determination to see Europe delivering on its potential in defence. The time has gone when Europe’s achievements were judged in terms of what it agreed on paper. Henceforth the success or failure of European ambitions in defence will be judged exclusively on the basis of action and implementation. Defence is now, and needs to remain, firmly on the European political agenda.
Three major initiatives contributed to a momentous shift in European defence thinking in 2016. First, Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Head of the EDA, presented the European Union Global Strategy (EUGS) in June, calling for the full use of the “Agency’s potential as an essential prerequisite for European security and defence efforts.” This was followed by the Implementation Plan on Security and Defence, which set out a new level of ambition for the EU in defence. Second, the European Commission adopted the European Defence Action Plan, paving the way for a substantive European Defence Fund. Thirdly, the EU-NATO Joint Declaration added new impetus and concrete substance to the EU-NATO strategic partnership. These defining actions of 2016 have opened a window of opportunity for Europe to achieve concrete results starting in 2017.
This means that the critical work on implementation has to begin now. And EDA, whose core tasks are to support capability development through European defence cooperation, increase cooperative efforts in research & technology, and strengthen the industrial and technological base of the European defence sector, will be fundamental.
2016 put the spotlight on the added-value and expertise of the EDA. The four key capability programmes welcomed by the European Council in 2013 have made significant progress over the last 12 months. The contracts for a Definition Study of the European MALE RPAS (Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) and for Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) were both signed in the summer. Cyber security poses ever-changing challenges that require a cross-sectoral approach to developing effective cyber defence capabilities. In 2016, EDA continued to facilitate efforts in education, training and exercise to enhance Europe’s cyber capability. Governmental Satellite Communications (GovSatCom) activities have also progressed well with studies to identify Member States’ requirements with a view to exploring a pooling solution of existing capabilities. The Agency’s work in support of operations and enhanced standardisation and certification continues to yield positive results. EDA remains ambitious about what can be achieved in these programmes in 2017, in terms of increasing the number of Member States involved, addressing the full life cycle of defence capabilities, and developing effective education, training, and exercise initiatives.
This Agency was also a driving force in 2016, breaking new ground in an area that up to a few years ago would have been deemed inconceivable: defence research funded by the EU. The EU’s Pilot Project on defence research, which marks the first time that the EU budget is used for defence research, is run and managed by the EDA on behalf of the European Commission. Its implementation is well advanced and the three contracts it foresees were signed in October. As a test bed for the conditions of defence research in an EU framework, it also paves the way for the next milestone on the road towards dedicated EU defence research: the launch of the so-called ‘Preparatory Action’ on CSDP-related research.
A pivotal moment for the EDA, but 2017 will be equally crucial in demonstrating the added-value of EU-funded research in the defence sector. I believe that 2016 is defined by the fresh momentum behind European defence, but sustaining this momentum requires a strong partnership with industry. Europe’s strategic autonomy is dependent on a globally competitive, technologically advanced and innovative industrial base, that supports the development of the military capabilities Europe needs. This year EDA has identified sources of support for the defence industry, launched a process to earmark future activities and concrete initiatives in support of defence-related SMEs, and has started to reorient is engagement with industry to better reflect the evolving defence industrial environment.
The growing interest of the European Commission in defence issues puts a premium on ensuring that the Agency plays its role to the full as the interface between Member States and the Commission. It has already done this successfully, be it in terms of the Pilot Project and the Preparatory Action on defence research, or EU legislation that has implications for defence, such as REACH, related to hazardous chemicals which may have a direct impact on the operational effectiveness of the armed forces as well as the competiveness of the European defence industry. Equally, the establishment of the EDA Single European Sky (SES) Military Aviation Board, a milestone that will form the basis for EDA’s work on relevant military aspects of SES, underscores the pivotal role of this Agency.
EDA is an outward looking agency that puts a premium on enhancing cooperation with other institutions and bodies to consolidate cooperation and optimise our overall impact. Its relationship with NATO, based on substantive dialogue at all levels, is ensuring mutually-reinforcing capability development. The Administrative Arrangements with both OCCAR and European Space Agency (ESA) have greatly improved synergies across programmes this year. In 2016, the EDA signed new agreements with SESAR JU, EUROCONTROL, and the European Union Satellite Centre (SATCEN).
The next twelve months will have a transformational impact on European defence. EDA will be at the heart of it. Each year, this Agency grows its expertise and track record of delivery: 2016 was no different. The EDA has now passed the 185 mark in terms of projects facilitated and managed since its inception, representing almost €1 billion in R&T investment by the contributing Member States. In 2017 this Agency will continue to work in support of our Member States and strive to reinforce the European industrial and technological defence base. The launch of the EDA Long Term Review at the end of 2016 aims to set out the long-term objectives, priorities and way of working for this Agency as we move into the future and carry forward the implementation of the EUGS.
2016 has elevated European defence to a new level and set out an ambitious vision for the future. This Agency will work with even greater determination and will deploy its full range of expertise so that successful implementation will be the defining characteristic of the year ahead. I hope that 2017 will witness an even greater evolution in European defence cooperation.
Jorge Domecq, EDA Chief Executive