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EDA Steering Board discusses defence innovation

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Outcome of EDA Ministerial Steering Board meeting 

Defence Ministers met today at EDA’s Ministerial Steering Board under the chairmanship of the Head of the Agency, High Representative Josep Borrell. The main points on their agenda were the approval of the Agency’s 2022 general budget of €38 million, the negotiating mandate for the Agency for an Administrative Arrangement with the US Department of Defence and a discussion on how to reinforce EDA’s role in fostering defence innovation.  

Defence innovation and EDA’s future role 

Ministers had a debate on defence innovation at EU level, based on a Food-for-Thought paper prepared by the Agency. It followed a call from the Foreign Affairs Council (conclusions of May 2021) to reinforce EDA’s role in fostering defence innovation, including disruptive technologies, and the Council invitation issued to the Head of Agency to present possible options in this respect before the end of this year.  Among the potential options discussed by the Ministers was also that of establishing a Defence Innovation Hub within the Agency. It was agreed that, based on today’s debate, the Head of Agency will finalise and present its options in the coming weeks for further discussion at the Agency’s upcoming Steering Board meeting in R&T directors’ composition in December.  

AA talks with US, cooperation with third parties 

Ministers approved a mandate for EDA to start negotiations with the US Department of Defence on the conclusion of an Administrative Agreement (AA). The exact scope and modalities of the AA will be defined during the talks. In the joint statement adopted at the last EU-US summit in June 2021, a commitment was made by both sides “to work towards an Administrative Arrangement, with discussions, including on modalities and conditions for a closer and mutually beneficial cooperation, beginning as soon as possible.” So far, EDA has concluded AA with four non-EU countries (Norway, Switzerland, Serbia, Ukraine) as well as two organisations (OCCAR, European Space Agency). 

The Steering Board also approved a document laying down the revised and updated principles for EDA cooperation with third parties.   

2022 Budget 

Ministers adopted the proposal made by the Head of the Agency, setting the EDA’s 2022 general budget at €38 million (compared to €37.5 in 2021). The budget reflects the continuous high demands on the Agency to support Member States in the development of defence capabilities as well as the implementation of EU defence initiatives such as CARD, the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF). 

Three-Year Planning Framework  

Ministers approved EDA’s Three-Year Planning Framework 2022-2024 (together with its staff establishment plan) which provides a coherent and comprehensive overview of the Agency’s activities structured around the three chapters reflecting its core taskings: - prioritising and planning defence cooperation; - supporting technology and capability development; - facilitating the interface with wider EU policies. Each chapter of the Planning Framework elaborates on key activities which EDA is undertaking, providing an overview of the nature, scope and expected impact of the Agency’s activities in support of overarching policy objectives and the added value for Member States.  

Military Mobility technical arrangements signed 

In the margins of the Steering Board meeting, Ministers signed two so-called ‘Technical Arrangements on Cross-Border Movement Permission’ to improve Military Mobility in Europe.  

“With today’s signing of the two technical arrangements, a huge step forward has been made to improve Military Mobility in Europe”, commented EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý.  At the occasion of the signature ceremony, Belgian Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder said: “Belgium is one of Europe’s main entrance points and therefore plays an important role as a transit country for military mobility. As part of its global approach, Belgium would like to join a structured cooperation aimed at harmonising and simplifying the procedures for Armed Forces’ rapid deployment in Europe”. 

Initiated by the European Action Plan on Military Mobility, these two technical arrangements - covering air and surface movements respectively - have been prepared under EDA auspices since 2018, involving all EU Member States as well as Norway. The arrangements focus on providing permission for air and surface movements, including the transport of dangerous goods. Using annual permissions through a simplified and standardised process based on harmonised data, Member States will be able to provide movement permission within five working days. The technical arrangements will also allow participant countries to reduce their administrative burden and use staff resources in the most efficient way.  

A total of 23 Member States and Norway signed the surface arrangement, while 22 and Norway signed the air arrangement. The signing kicks off their practical implementation: the signatories will now assess possible activities at national level to make optimal use of these arrangements.