To counter the ill effects of market fragmentation and disparity of national defence expenditure, the EDAP suggests to strengthen the European Defence Single Market, reduce duplications in Member States’ defence spending and improve the competitiveness of the European defence industry.
In order to achieve that, the Commission says it is ready to engage at an “unprecedented level” in defence to support Member States and to exploit for that purpose “all EU instruments, including EU funding, and the full potential of the Treaties, towards building a Defence Union”.
Lending EU support to collaborative defence projects will not only help to achieve “a more efficient use of public money” but also lead to a stronger industrial base which is a key prerequisite for implementing the new level of defence ambition set out in the EU Global Strategy (EUGS) which identified a number of defence capability priority areas in which Europe needs to invest and develop collaborative approaches. “For Europe to be able to deliver on these capability priorities, it must create the conditions for more defence cooperation to maximise the output and the efficiency of defence spending. This should go hand-in-hand with a strong, competitive and innovative defence industrial base”, is stated in the EDAP.
In other words: a stronger EU defence with an appropriate level of strategic autonomy can only be built on the foundations of a competitive defence industry able to deliver the capabilities needed.
EDA expected to act as a “pivot”
The Commission is conscious that the EDAP cannot work in isolation but that “strong support from the Member States and EU Institutions will be required to realise its full potential”.
Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Vice-President of the Commission and Head of the European Defence Agency (EDA), also insisted on the importance of making sure the various stakeholders work hand-in-hand to accomplish the same objective: a stronger and more efficient European defence. “The European Defence Agency will have a key role in supporting and coordinating this work, acting as a pivot between Member States and the Commission”, she said in her recent speech at the 2016 EDA Annual Conference (see pages 31-38). “It will be important to work together - the [European] Commission, the Council, the European Defence Agency - that is one of the frameworks in which we can develop this cooperation”, she added when presenting the EDAP to the press on 30 November, together with Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska. Under these conditions, “the European Defence Action Plan can become a game changer for more European defence cooperation and greater solidarity between Member States”, the Commission stressed.
Furthermore, the EDAP is not only closely linked with the EUGS but also with the implementation of the EU-NATO Joint Declaration (on which the EU Council adopted implementation conclusions on 6 December, see our ‘News’ section on page 5), because the actions proposed in the EDAP will lead to a stronger European Union in defence, “which ultimately means a stronger NATO”.
European Defence Fund
The EDAP, proposed to Member States on 30 November and welcomed by EU Heads of State and government at the 15 December European Council meeting (see box below), consists of four main pillars, namely: - launch of a ‘European Defence Fund’; - fostering investments in defence supply chains; - reinforcement of the EU single market for defence; - and promotion of civil/military synergies within EU policies “wherever possible”.
The most groundbreaking, ambitious and probably also challenging proposal in the EDAP is certainly the setting up of a European Defence Fund which would consist of two distinct financing structures ('windows'):
research window’ to fund collaborative defence research projects at the EU level. This would be developed through the launch of a Preparatory Action on defence research and should lead to a dedicated EU programme in the post-2020 EU multiannual financial framework.
capability window’ to support the joint development of defence capabilities commonly agreed by Member States. This would be financed through the pooling of national contributions and, where possible, supported by the EU budget.