The European Defence Agency’s (EDA) ministerial Steering Board met this Saturday morning in Sofia under the chairmanship of HR/VP Federica Mogherini in her capacity as Head of the Agency. Defence ministers among other things welcomed the Agency’s progress on taking forward the new European defence initiatives and encouraged EDA to further develop initiatives in areas such as military mobility and the Main Battle Tank capability.
EDA plays a central role in many of the initiatives implementing the security and defence aspects of the EU Global Strategy presented by HR/VP Federica Mogherini in 2016. Federica Mogherini highlighted the Agency’s aim to support coherence between the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF) – using the Capability Development Plan (CDP) as baseline for developing the European capability landscape.
The currently ongoing revision of the CDP will be finalised by June 2018 and Defence Ministers highlighted the importance of ensuring coherence of output and timelines between EU and NATO defence planning processes. At the same time, an Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA) is being developed with a view to guiding future investments in collaborative European defence research. Ministers of Defence welcomed the progress achieved so far in the trial run of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence implemented by EDA in its capacity as CARD Secretariat. The first CARD report will be presented in November 2018. EDA also supports Member States as part of the PESCO Secretariat. On 2 May, the PESCO Secretariat (EDA together with EEAS/EUMS) issued the second call for project proposals to PESCO participating Member States to be submitted by 31 July 2018.
Regarding Military Mobility, and in line with the scope and timelines mentioned in the European Union Action Plan, the Agency is currently preparing two ambitious programmes on the harmonisation of military requirements related to customs and on cross border movement permission.
Both programmes aim at facilitating military mobility activities. The Agency together with the participating Member States will look at harmonising the military requirements related to customs. The programme on cross border movement permission builds on the successful Diplomatic Clearances arrangement which foresees annually issued clearance numbers for air transport aircraft. The arrangement has proven its value by reducing administrative burden and time. The new programme will build on this good practice by looking at surface movement to enhance military mobility for road, rail and inland waterways, also including air assets such as helicopters and air-to-air refuelling aircraft. The Agency’s work in this area is coordinated with the PESCO project on military mobility and conducted in close cooperation with the EEAS, EUMS, the Commission and other stakeholders. It is also coherent with respective NATO initiatives.
Main Battle Tank
Defence Ministers invited the Agency to pursue the development of the Pooling and Sharing initiative on Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) based on identified MBT surplus capacities in a number of Member States (Providers) and a demand for the acquisition of such assets in others (Receivers). The Agency together with national experts and industry investigated to what extent Providers could pool & share their surplus assets with interested Receivers and upgrade the MBTs to the latest configuration available. In addition, some Member States have voiced interest in upgrading their national fleets and keep them under full national control (Upgraders). The project will provide economies of scale throughout the entire life cycle while enhancing interoperability among Member States.
Cooperative Financial Mechanism & other topics
The Steering Board was informed about the progress achieved in the negotiation of the Programme Arrangement of the Cooperative Financial Mechanism. It is intended that the CFM will be structured around two pillars, one intergovernmental, and one involving the European Investment Bank as the sole lender for defence-related projects and programmes in line with its lending policy. Following calls from the European Council to support investments in defence research and development activities, the European Investment Bank and the European Defence Agency concluded a cooperation agreement on 28 February 2018.
Ministers welcomed closer interaction between EDA and NATO. They were also presented with lessons learnt on the successful implementation of the Pilot Project and the first work programme of the Preparatory Action on Defence Research by the Agency under delegation of the European Commission. Finally, the Steering Board welcomed the progress made with regard to the implementation of the dual-use strategy on RPAS regulation, based on close coordination with the European Commission, the SESAR Joint Undertaking and EASA.