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Pooling & Sharing Helps Filling Capability Gaps

EDA's Code of Conduct will help to mainstream Pooling & Sharing in Member States’ planning and decision-making processes.

European Union (EU) defence ministers have agreed that cooperation should be systematically considered from the outset to support EU defence departments to develop defence capabilities. A key enabler to this is a new Code of Conduct on Pooling & Sharing. The objective now is for the Code to be implemented by individual defence departments in the most effective manner.

At the informal Ministerial meeting under the Belgian presidency in 2010, Sweden and Germany proposed that the Agency should examine Pooling & Sharing intensively, with a view to identifying specific areas in which early progress could be achieved. Many initiatives had already begun but others had yet to get off the ground, so during 2011 the Agency looked at the overall state of play and identified key areas where progress could be made quickly.  At the EDA Steering Board meeting in November 2011 EU defence ministers endorsed a list of 11 Pooling & Sharing opportunities.

“It’s very much work in progress. We have made significant achievements but nobody should assume we are anywhere near mission accomplished. I think this is going to be a long haul – an iterative process,” said Graham Muir, Head of the Policy and Planning Unit at the EDA.

Pooling & Sharing

It quickly became apparent that if the initiative were to be successful it could not be done only on an ad hoc basis. In April 2012 four nations – Belgium, Finland, Greece and Luxembourg – suggested a more structured approach to define a concrete framework in which Pooling & Sharing could be advanced. The Agency decided, in parallel with the specific project work in which it was already engaged, to try to create such a structured approach. “We were pretty clear about the content – the challenge was to secure Member States’ buy-in,” said Muir.

At the informal Ministerial meeting in Cyprus in September 2012 the EDA tabled a paper outlining its suggestions for the Code, which Ministers approved two months later. “EDA will continue to drive Pooling & Sharing forward as a pragmatic, flexible and cost-effective model, and avoiding bureaucratization. The Code of Conduct will facilitate cooperation, and make Pooling & Sharing sustainable now and in the future", said Claude France-Arnould, EDA’s Chief Executive after the Cyprus meeting.

“We have continued to add projects to the list but we now have a better framework within which to work. We don’t for a moment claim all these ideas as our own – a lot of them were inspired by the four-nation paper issued in April last year,” said Muir.

A structured approach

There are several benefits to adopting a more structured approach, rather than continuing with the former ad hoc process, according to Muir. “The EDA is not the only actor working on cooperation; there is considerable effort expended in other institutional frameworks, such as NATO, as well as bilateral and regional clusters. There is a plethora of such initiatives but what’s clear is that Member States want coherence between the various initiatives, thereby achieving the twin objectives of avoiding unnecessary duplication and ensuring gaps are filled where possible. “

Another objective was to try to embed the Pooling & Sharing in Member States’ defence planning and national decision-making processes. In Sweden, for example, cooperation is the default option. “If you don’t want to collaborate on a particular capability, you have to demonstrate why going it alone is a better option,” said Muir.
The Code will now be implemented nationally, on a voluntary basis. “The signals we have had have been positive.  There will also be an assessment process, which is why at the end of the Code we have a section outlining how implementation will be assessed,” said Muir. “There will be an annual report, the first one of which will be towards the end of this year.  I think this will be an important contribution of ours to the deliberations of the European Council on defence issues at the end of 2013,” said Muir.

He continued: “What we want to be able to provide is a clear broad picture. Where are the gaps? Where are the duplications and redundancies? What obstacles have Member States identified in implementing the Code? What is the pan-European effect of defence cuts? Part of this will be a mapping exercise to determine the effect these cuts have on the retaining and developing capabilities. But this isn’t just about capabilities - it’s also about the impact on research and technology. Although much of our Pooling & Sharing work lies within our Capabilities Directorate there is a lot on-going in other directorates. But we must work in an integrated manner, which means that our overall approach is coherent.”

Annual assessment

The first annual report will be a critical milestone in the implementation of the Code of Conduct. Will national differences in attitudes towards methods of achieving this implementation make an objective and impartial report more difficult to achieve? “Itt is clear there is not a single Member State that is not involved in some form of cooperation with regard to capability development, though to significantly different degrees. We are assuming they have an inventory of these cooperative projects or initiatives and I am therefore pretty sanguine that we will receive meaningful  inputs or reports from them”, said Muir.

“What will also be useful is to use EDA as a platform of information exchange on bilateral or regional initiatives both to share best practice and facilitate synergies. The result should be a clear picture of the capability map across Europe,” said Muir.

How does one define “capability”? Would military air traffic control qualify, for example? “Yes I think it probably would,” said Muir. “Anything required to enable operations and deliver the necessary military effect is a capability. Some of these are lethal, but there is a huge range of such capabilities that might be less visible, but without which an operation could not succeed. When issues of sovereignty come to the fore it is sometimes easier to get nations to cooperate on capabilities that are not necessarily front line, such as logistics, medical support or training. Cooperating in support functions not only brings efficiencies and economies; it also proves the concept.  And it should demonstrate that shared sovereignty does not mean loss of sovereignty,” Muir said.

The annual report, when produced towards the end of 2013, will have to answer questions on how it relates to other EU initiatives, particularly the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Muir believes that, in line with the code’s “work in progress” status, the report will address substantive issues at the same time as recognising the need for continual effort. “I would expect to see acknowledgement of the requirement for further work in as yet unidentified areas. This process – especially the capability mapping process – is going to help identify gaps and redundancies. This could help Member States to determine capability development on a coherent basis for the future,” he said.

“There is a great degree of solidarity and trust between Member States in terms of operating and fighting alongside each other. The real benefit of the Code of Conduct may eventually be to embed that solidarity and trust within the DNA of Member States so that they also pool and share the very capabilities needed to conduct those operations in the future,” he concluded.

This article first appeared in the third issue of "European Defence Matters".

Picture: Air-to-Air Refuelling is one of the flagship Pooling & Sharing projects. Copyrigth picture: Airbus Military.


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