The Steering Board of the European Defence Agency agreed today on the aim that the Agency should gradually take over the activities, in particular those covering Research & Technology, of the Western European Armaments Group (WEAG) and the Western European Armaments Organisation (WEAO).
The Steering Board, the principal decision-making body of the EDA on which the 24 participating member states are represented, was meeting for the first time in the formation of Research & Technology Directors. The meeting, the fourth Steering Board session since the Agency was created, was chaired by Mr Dirk Ellinger, R&T Director in the German Defence Ministry, on behalf of .”
WEAG, established in 1993 as the successor to the Independent European Programme Group, and WEAO, created in 1996 as an executive body to manage joint research projects, have until now been the main focus for defence research and technology co-operation in Europe. Member States have already agreed to close WEAG from next month and the Steering Board agreed on the need for early complementary legal decisions within WEAO by the Member States concerned to allow the transfer of its functions to the EDA.
The Steering Board decided that the EDA should aim to take over the relevant activities of WEAG and WEAO progressively during 2005 and the first quarter of 2006, when additional resources should be available to EDA to handle transferred contracts.
“Absorbing the work of WEAG and WEAO into the EDA will give R&T collaboration a much stronger political impulse,” said EDA Chief Executive Nick Witney.
The Steering Board also approved a set of principles governing the Agency’s Research & Technology functions, including plans to establish networks of experts from governments, research centres, industry and international bodies to collaborate in specific areas.
The “operational concept” for R&T defines the operating principles and internal organisation which will allow the Agency to absorb existing valuable activities such as those from WEAG and WEAO, manage future collaborative projects, put R&T contracts to industry, monitor progress and allow the Steering Board to define and oversee a European defence R&T strategy.
“The R&T Directors emphasized their commitment to supporting the work of the Agency in this field and intend to remain closely involved in it,” Ellinger said.
The Steering Board also reviewed the Agency’s work to date on the technology required for Long Endurance Unmanned Air Vehicles for intelligence and surveillance, one of the Agency’s four flagship projects for 2005. The aim is to encourage collaboration within the European industry to demonstrate the technologies required for such UAVs.
“There are three major and at least five smaller national programmes under way in this area within the EU,” said Witney. “By studying some of the critical technology elements for UAVs together at a European level, we can ensure that research money is spent in the most effective way – one of the central aims of the Agency.”
The Steering Board also heard a presentation from the European Commission on the European security research programme, part of the 7th Framework Research Programme. The EDA will be represented on the European Security Research Advisory Board to identify synergies between the defence R&T work of the Agency and the civilian-oriented security research programme.