Almost 100 representatives from Member States, the European Commission and the European Defence Agency (EDA) gathered on 21 November at the Agency premises. As tasked by the December 2013 European Council, they initiated a debate on research related to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and the Preparatory Action in this field, which is expected to be launched in 2017.
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Philippe Brunet is the Director of Aerospace, Maritime, Security and Defence Industries within the European Commission’s Directorate General Enterprise and Industry.
This workshop allowed Member States to discuss the overall objective and scope of this future programme. It was co-organised by the Commission, responsible and financially accountable for the launch of the Preparatory Action, and EDA, bringing its skills and experience in setting up and implementing defence research. “We need to prove that we are able to launch research on a new subject, to build procedures together and to set a common goal”, Philippe Brunet, Director of Aerospace, Maritime, Security and Defence Industries within the European Commission’s Directorate General Enterprise and Industry, explained.
A first step
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On 1 May 2014, Brigadier General (Engineer) Denis Roger was appointed as Director, European Synergies
and Innovation (ESI) of the European Defence Agency.
“Why is it so important to get the Preparatory Action right? Because it is the first step towards a much bigger challenge: the setting-up of a CSDP-related research programme at EU- level” stressed Denis Roger, EDA European Synergies and Innovation director. “What is at stake is the development of a European technological and industrial base with a critical mass on areas we consider important for the development of CSDP-related capabilities”, he added.
The meeting offered an insight into the lessons learned from an end-user perspective. Commander Ben Falk, in charge of strategic analysis at the EU Military Staff, reminded the audience of the important links that should be maintained between the operational lessons learned at EU-level, the Capability Development Plan – recent update of which was presented by Axel Butenschoen from EDA – and future research initiatives.
Consensus emerged on the fact that, in order to bring something new, this preparatory action needs to be defence-oriented and to focus on CSDP capabilities, while promoting innovation and European defence industry competitiveness.
Bringing added value
Bryan Wells, from the UK Ministry of Defence, discussed the need to complement national research programmes and to bring a European added-value, while Carmen Rodriguez Augustin, from Spain, underlined that “interests of governments and industry have to be respected and properly covered because the defence sector needs specific rules and provisions”.
During a keynote intervention, Jan-Olof Lind, chairman of EDA’s research & technology Steering Board, underlined the added value of a programme benefitting from a centralised budget, while insisting on the great innovation potential of a CSDP-focussed initiative.
After a full day of thorough debate on this topic of critical importance for the future of European defence, participants agreed to meet again in February for a new round of discussions.