How can the findings and recommendations of the first Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) be best used and exploited by Member States in their national defence planning, and notably as regards collaborative capability development? This was one of the key topics discussed at a high-level seminar co-organised this week by EDA and the current Portuguese EU Presidency.
The two-days hybrid event (9/10 March) gathered defence planners from Member States and was opened by EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý and the Portuguese Minister of Defence, João Gomes Cravinho.
In his welcome, Mr Šedivý said the seminar came at a very timely moment, just two weeks after the EU Heads of State and Government, during their 26 February European Council debate on security and defence, had reaffirmed their commitment to increase the EU's capacity to act autonomously and encouraged Member States to make better use of the CARD to this end. “With Europe facing more versatile threats and challenges linked to strategic competitors, moving ahead jointly has become a strategic imperative. This seminar gives us the opportunity to discuss some of the practical aspects of taking this political commitment forward”, he said.
“CARD needs to be followed up with concrete actions”
In his keynote speech, Portuguese Defence Minister João Gomes Cravinho praised the added value of the first CARD which “proved to be a very useful pathfinder for cooperation opportunities for joint defence capability development (…) This cooperative approach is the only way forward to have a stronger European defence by dealing with Europe-wide capability gaps”. However, for CARD to be a real added value, “Member States and the EU institutions have to follow up on the recommendations with concrete actions” and better synchronisation in full complementarity with NATO, the Minister stressed. Therefore, the information gathered from the CARD should inform national defence planning and also inform the upcoming 4th way of PESCO proposals as well as the priorities in the upcoming European Defence Fund (EDF), he said. “We can be stronger together. European defence can be stronger by intensifying our cooperation in the development of capabilities. The CARD process and EDA’s work throughout the year represent, in our view, an invaluable contribution for this objective of being stronger together”, the Minister concluded.
Three panel discussions
Throughout the two days, participants witnessed three successive panel discussions, moderated by EDA Capability, Armament and Planning (CAP) Director Martin Konertz, focusing on different aspects:
- Making best use of CARD in national defence planning. How do Member States take into account the EU capability landscape, as pictured in the first CARD report, in their national defence planning? and what role do the EU’s prioritisation tools currently play in national defence planning? were some of the key questions debated by the panellists which included Major General Giovanni Iannucci (Head of Plans and Policy Division, Defence Policy and Capability Director, MoD Italy), Brigadier General Georgios Bikakis (Director Concepts & Capabilities, EUMS), Colonel Robert Bieleny (National Capability Director, MoD Czech Republic) and Jānis Karlsbergs (Undersecretary of State - Policy Director, MoD Latvia).
- CARD Support to Other EU Defence Initiatives. How to maximise the value of the CARD outcomes in its pathfinder function for PESCO and EDF? How do Member States intend to address the focus areas for cooperation identified in the CARD? How could CARD fruitfully inform the Strategic Compass development? These questions and others were debated by Major General Eric Charpentier (National Capability Director, MoD, France), Major General Jorge Côrte-Real Andrade (National R&T Director and Deputy Director of the Directorate-general of National Defence Resources, Portugal), Major General Andre Steur (Director of Operational Policy & Plans, National Capability Director, MoD, Netherlands) and Arnaud Migoux (Head of Defence Sector, EEAS).
- Preparing the next CARD Cycle. What are the expectations of Member States for the next CARD cycle, in terms of defence spending, planning, cooperation and collaborative opportunities, including possible focus areas? This and other questions were debated by the panelists Major General Iñigo Pareja Rodriguez (Chief of Plans Division of Joint Staff, Spain), Rear Admiral Fragkiskos Leloudas (Chief of Policy and Planning Branch, Defence Staff, Greece) and Janez Nedog (Head of Strategic Planning Division, MoD Slovenia).
The seminar was closed by EDA CAP Director Martin Konertz who thanked the Portuguese EU Presidency as well as all participants and attendees. This seminar (the second of its kind following the one co-organised in 2020 with the then Croatian EU Presidency) was extremely useful as it allowed for a fruitful discussion with national defence planners as to how the CARD products and recommendations could be enhanced in the future. CARD is not a top-down exercise but lives with and through Member States’ involvement, Mr Konertz said: thanks to their comments, hints, suggestions and proposals made during this seminar, “CARD will gradually improve” and even better serve its purpose which is to provide national MoDs with a realistic picture of the European defence landscape and support them to find cooperation opportunities. National defence planners will remain in the driving seat but are called to systematically use the CARD tool for the sake of more convergence in European capability development: “Continued dialogue is key to success in this endeavour”. Hence the idea to develop a “defence planners’ community” to improve this dialogue, simplify the process and further encourage Member States to take ownership/leadership on specific capability areas.
What are the next steps and how can EDA support them? First, it will continue to closely monitor the budgetary developments and defence spending in the Member States, Mr Konertz said. Then, EDA’s working groups and bodies will continue to debate the CARD results in their regular meeting and move the practical work forward in support of and together with Member States. Finally, the regular organisation of seminars such as this one would certainly be helpful in keeping up the close dialogue and help build mutual understanding, he stressed.