Bulgaria’s key defence priority during its EU presidency is to push for a swift implementation of CARD, PESCO and EDF. What is your assessment of the progress made on these initiatives as of today?
One of our defence priorities during our EU Presidency is the development of defence capabilities. In this regard, we want to advance the initiatives mentioned which derive from the new EU’s 2016 Global Strategy. We think the work on these initiatives is progressing well. At times, things even develop at such a pace that it becomes difficult for Member States’ administrations to respond to all new ideas and take full part in the discussions.
On PESCO, we already have a decision on the first set of projects. We now need quick results in order to secure public support for PESCO. As regards the EDF, the legislative procedure for the adoption of the Regulation establishing the European Defence Industrial D e v el o p m en t P ro gram m e (EDIDP) is underway and should be concluded by this summer. The ambition is to maintain the proposed co-funding rate for PESCO projects. The CARD trial run is also underway and bilateral consultations are currently being held with Member States. Those with Bulgaria have already taken place. We believe that the links between CARD, PESCO and EDIDP need to be better defined to make sure the initiatives support one another.
How do you see CARD developing after the current trial run? What does Bulgaria hope CARD will yield for defence cooperation once it is up and running in 2019?
The CARD trial run is particularly important since it has to validate the CARD methodology, the agreed timeframes and the relevance of the information gathered from national MoDs’ databases. Based on this, the process will have to be adapted and refined so that it can deliver the desired output.
The CARD process aims to shine a light on the full picture of available European defence capabilities and to assess the progress of defence cooperation based on established criteria, as well as to identify new areas with potential for joint work. Moreover, we hope the review will also have an impact on the development of innovative industrial capabilities which are an important element of Europe’s strategic autonomy.
At present, defence capabilities in Europe are very fragmented and we hope that CARD will be instrumental in supporting the political impetus to enhance defence cooperation and joint capability development. The CARD should be aligned and synchronized with the NATO Defence Planning Process. It should be guided by Member States with the support of the European Defence Agency, the European External Action Service and the EU Military Staff, all of which have a role to play.
And on PESCO: what is needed to make sure that it does not remain a mere political statement of good will but instead leads to projects generating the operational capabilities Europe really needs?
To participate in PESCO, each Member State had to submit information, in the form of a National Implementation Plan (NIP), on how it will fulfill and meet the common binding commitments under PESCO. Bulgaria , too, elaborated such an implementation plan on meeting the 20 criteria and commitments in various areas. It was incorporated into our national plan for increasing defence spending to 2% of our GDP adopted by the government in early 2018. I must say that the commitments undertaken by our country are extremely ambitious and require ardent and unambiguous political support at national level.
Additionally, it is important to note that at least once a year the Council will receive an implementation report by the High Representative, prepared by EDA and EEAS, which will describe to what extent each of the Member States participating in PESCO respects and fulfils the commitments it has subscribed to. In case a Member State does not honour its commitments, its participation in PESCO can be suspended.
As said, I believe that the links between CARD, PESCO and EDF need to be more clearly and firmly defined. Only then will we be able to achieve the necessary coherence among them.