In recent years, we have mastered more political support for European defence than previously. We have set up new EU defence cooperation tools which, if properly implemented and used, will lead over time to a more structured joint European planning framework that will enable systematic cooperation, from investment and capability development to the joint operational use of those capabilities. The revised Capability Development Plan (CDP) with its 11 European Defence Capability Priorities, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), and the European Defence Fund (EDF) should allow Member States and their Ministries of Defence to spend their defence budgets more effectively (avoiding duplication) and achieve the full spectrum of defence capabilities that are required in the 21st century, in complementarity with NATO. It will also enhance the competitiveness of the EU’s defence industrial and technological base. All in all, it will improve the Union´s ability to tackle security threats more effectively.
No room for complacency
Does this mean we have done our homework and can now lean back? Not at all. The creation of the tools was only a first step. We now need further bold steps in the next five years towards a more capable European Union in defence. The CDP, CARD, PESCO and EDF are powerful instruments, but it is up to national governments to make the most out of them.
First, they must be implemented in a coherent manner and used in the right sequence, meaning that the regularly updated CDP identifies the defence capability priorities Member States need to focus on; the CARD provides an overview of the existing capabilities in Europe and identifies opportunities for future cooperation; PESCO offers options how to develop prioritised capabilities in a collaborative manner; and EDF provides EU funding to incentivise and support cross-border collaborations, with a special bonus for PESCO projects. EDA plays a central role, not only in the functioning of each of the tools but also in ensuring coherence among them.
Second, smooth and efficient interplay between all actors involved in the tools will be of utmost importance. Wearing my three hats as High Representative, Vice-President of the Commission and Head of EDA, I will attach particular importance to ensuring that the implementation work carried out within the European External Action Service (EEAS) and EDA is conducted in close coordination and synergy with the Commission services, in particular with the future Directorate General for Defence Industry and Space.
Third, beyond the technical implementation of the EU tools, what we need is a change of mindset in the national Ministries of Defence: they must truly embrace the new approach and use the instruments for their national defence planning. First and foremost, MoDs must ensure that the agreed EU Capability Development Priorities are embedded into their national defence plans and that they are taken into account when new defence capability development projects are initiated, preferably in a collaborative manner. This will require strong and sustained political commitment from all involved in defence planning around Europe.
We can only be successful if Member States remain committed, also in the longer run, to pursue on a more collaborative and integrated way of planning, financing, developing, deploying and operating defence capabilities together.