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Annual Conference closes with call for coherent implementation of EU defence tools

EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq this afternoon closed the Agency’s 2019 Annual Conference which was devoted to debating the current state of implementation and the future prospects of the new EU defence initiatives. Before that, NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment, Camille Grand, had underlined in his speech the strong relationship, cooperation and complementarity between NATO and the EU, two organisations which are "two sides of the same coin".      

Although it is premature to declare today that the new EU defence cooperation tools (CARD, PESCO, EDF) will deliver on all their promises, they definitely have the potential to be very successful and lead, over time, to a more structured joint European defence planning framework that will enable systematic cooperation, from investment and capability development to the joint operational use of those capabilities, Mr Domecq said in his concluding remarks. However, everything will depend on how efficiently and coherently they are implemented, and to what extent Member States will actually use and embed these tools into their national defence thinking and planning, the EDA Chief Executive stressed, reflecting a general assessment expressed throughout the conference.  


Main takeaways

Mr Domecq singled out a number of commonalities expressed during the conference which could serve as the main takeaways of today's event, such as:

  • the sense of urgency to use the current window of opportunity to push ahead with the Europe of Defence;
  • the need to deliver quick results by ensuring an efficient, coherent and output-oriented implementation of the tools;
  • the importance of following an integrated approach which includes all the actors on EU level (EDA, EEAS, EUMC, EUMS, Commission, Council) as well as national Ministries of Defence;
  • the priority of the operational military needs and requirements which have to guide the industrial needs, not the other way around
  • the need to safeguard and invest in Key Strategic Activities to make the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base more sustainable, as a key aspect of strategic autonomy.   


Lively and interactive panel discussions 

Throughout the day, between the various keynote speeches (see other related webnews on the opening speeches and the ministerial debate), conference attendees also enjoyed two lively, interactive and highly interesting panel debates, each of them focusing on a specific aspect of European defence.

Moderated by EUISS Director Dr Gustav Lindstrom, the first panel entitled 'CARD, PESCO, EDF: taking stock and looking ahead' featured Admiral Rob Bauer (Dutch Chief of Defence), Dirk Hoke (CEO of Airbus Defence & Space), Herald Ruijters (Director at the European Commission's DG MOVE), Esa Pulkkinen (Director General of the EU Military Staff) as well as Benedikt Zimmer (German State Secretary for Defence Procurement). The panelist focused on the need to ensure a smooth and hands-on implementation of the new EU defence cooperation tools, and to always keep in mind the armed forces' real capability needs and priorities. The key driver of all cooperation must be the capability requirements and needs of our forces, and nothing else, said Mr Zimmer. He also called for "proper and fair partnerships" between the European defence industries and countries to unleash the full potential of defence cooperation. In this respect, Dirk Hoke (Airbus) raised the importance of solving the sensitive issue of intellectual property rights. "As long this question is not solved, we will see duplication" in the development of capabilities, he said. The current fragmentation of Europe' capability landscape is not sustainable, stressed Admiral Bauer. Capabilities, such as for example military helicopters, can be produced by different industries in different countries "but please build just one type of them, not 28", he said.       

The second panel, moderated by EDA's Industry, Synergies & Enablers Director, Emilio Fajardo, discussed the 'Technological and industrial dimension of the EU's new level of ambition on defence'. It featured Thierry Carlier (Director International Development, Direction Générale de l'Armement), Éric Béranger (CEO of MBDA),  Steven Blockmans (Head of the EU Foreign Policy Unit at the Centre for European Policy Studies CEPS), Micael Johansson (President/CEO of SAAB Group) Paula Queipo Rodriguez (Director of Business Operations, IDONIAL Centro Tecnológico),  Dr Margriet Drent (Senior Research Fellow at Clingendael). A strong focus was put on Europe's so-called Key Strategic Activities (skills, technologies, manufacturing capabilities) which should be safeguarded to maintain and increase Member States armed forces' freedom of action and allow the EU to move towards strategic autonomy.

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