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Pooling & Sharing: More Effective, Not Cheaper Defence

Claude-France Arnould, Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency, participates in the 11th Congress on European Security and Defence, the Berlin Security Conference, starting today. Madam Arnould will introduce a panel on 28 November entitled "The financial crisis and its impact on European Security and Defence". Read here below her views on the role of the EDA in times of austerity.

Pooling & Sharing: more effective, not cheaper defence

Without doubt, the financial crisis has an adverse impact on the European defence sector. Defence spending is on a record low; national defence budgets have nearly halved since the Cold War.

But the financial crisis  also triggers the necessary momentum to further cooperate, to pool and share capabilities. The European Defence Agency has initiated projects already following the eleven priority areas defined by its Steering Board in May 2011, covering the full capability line, from logistical support to acquisition.

An essential project is air-to-air refuelling. During the campaign in Libya, the EU heavily relied on US tankers to keep their fighter jet fleet operational. As a consequence, EU defence ministers acknowledged that air-to-air refuelling was a critical capability shortfall which required an urgent solution. Another potential opportunity for cooperation is military satellite communication. It is assessed that EU Member States could save up to 2 bn Euro over the 15 coming years if they intensify their cooperation in this domain.

A key enabler for Pooling and Sharing : certification and standardisation

Certification and standardisation is very important to create better conditions for cooperation, efficiencies, and less bureaucracy. For instance, Member States are in the process of implementing in national law the European Military Airworthiness Requirements (EMARs) developed by EDA to facilitate the certification process of military aircrafts. Some Member States have already agreed to use EMARs for the in-service phase of the A400M. Harmonised rules will allow for mutual recognition between Member States’ military airworthiness authorities which in turn will help to reduce costs considerably. Another example is certification in the field of ammunition. Up to 500 million euro could be optimised each year in Europe through more standardised certification processes.

Not less but more efficient

But Pooling & Sharing cannot be an alibi to further reduce efforts. It is a way to harness and maximise investment. Pooling & Sharing is not an excuse to invest less; rather, it offers a way to acquire together what is out of reach individually and get more efficiency in the deployment of these capabilities. We see that Europe risks losing significant industrial capability between now and 2020. One of the areas where Europe should intensity its efforts to run in the global competition is Unmanned Aerial Systems.

Defence capability needs innovation. While the US spends 31% of its defence budget on investment, in Europe this accounts for only 22%. With the Member State’s budgetary room for maneuver being more limited than ever, the Agency is actively looking for synergies with wider EU policies – research and technology, the Future Horizon 2020 programme, space policy, etc.. All these synergies will build on dual use technologies, for civil as well as military applications, but are not a substitute for national investment in future key technologies.

Towards a more systematic approach of Pooling & Sharing

Cooperative programmes are of course not a novelty in the military domain. But what the European Defence Agency offers to its participating Member States is unique. We work at the service of the Member States, applying an “à la carte” approach by supporting groupings of two Member States upwards. We also pay particular attention to avoid duplication of efforts on the national level or with NATO. Recently, we have put a voluntary Pooling & Sharing code of conduct on the table of Ministers to allow for a more structured approach. It meant for example that Pooling & Sharing would be considered from the outset of an equipment or capability.

As said before, the financial crisis created an urgency to closer work together. The political mandate of EDA is to propose ways, means and opportunities to cooperate efficiently. Obviously, this is in full respect of national sovereignty. Military capabilities are Member States’ capabilities. But the EDA is there to support by building on maximum synergy. We have now to translate this political will into real commitment.

Claude-France Arnould
Chief Executive, European Defence Agency

More information:

- For more information on the conference, please click here