So, where to go from here?

We took the pulse of Ministries of Defence asking a sample of them – key decision-makers from The Netherlands, Romania and Spain – to answer three identical questions on their country’s views and intentions as regards the CARD follow-up. 

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  • What has been the biggest added-value or lesson learnt of the first CARD, from your perspective?

    The CARD report and analysis is a great work for which I applaud and thank the European Defence Agency (EDA). It underlines the broad knowledge and expertise of EDA. CARD is showing us the overall defence capability landscape. It clearly indicates that the landscape is rather fragmented, still not very coherent and interoperability is not guaranteed. 

    To overcome this, Member States need to synchronise their planning and coordinate the spending. This will take time but at least, through the clear recommendations, the CARD shows us directions and areas where cooperation is most needed and most urgent.

    In concrete terms, how does your country intend to use the CARD findings and recommendations?

    For the Netherlands, the CARD analysis has clear recommendations which we are staffing at the moment. To mention some of them that look very promising to us:

    • development of the soldier equipment programme: cooperative projects in that field will lead to more interoperability, in my eyes one of the main objectives of collaborative work;

    • development of Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (CUAS): they are very important to counter one of the future threats;

    • Military Mobility (MM): for us, as the Lead Nation of the PESCO project on MM, this would also be an area to develop further cooperative efforts;

    • Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications for defence and human factor aspects such as manned/unmanned teaming are important. They are among the promising topics for longer term research.

    The Netherlands will definitely work on those projects. I would also suggest that we use the next few months to take a closer look at the CARD analysis and decide on promising options for further cooperation at our next EDA National Armaments Directors (NADs) Steering Board Meeting in March 2021.

    With the first CARD report delivered, are we moving closer to a Europe of Defence?

    In order to arrive at a synchronised coherent picture, ideally, the CDP and the Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA) guidance as well as the CARD outcome lead to the selection of high priority projects that are taken forward either under PESCO or the classical EDA framework or some third alternative. 

    The European Defence Fund (EDF) would support these initiatives with financial means. I do realise that the EDF has another legal base and sits in another framework, however it is our common effort to connect the two worlds and spend the EDF smartly with projects that really matter. 

    Therefore, the CARD results need to be part of the annual EDF work programme discussion. Following this logic of coherence, the CARD capability picture should inform the discussions on the Strategic Compass regarding the ‘capability box’. 

    So, yes with CARD delivered, we have another strong tool for EU defence cooperation. 

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  • What has been the biggest added-value or lesson learnt of the first CARD, from your perspective?

    The CARD process has already proved to be a crucial instrument in providing us with a comprehensive state of play regarding cooperation in developing defence capabilities, as well as a pathfinder for the implementation of EU priorities.

    Taking the next step to increase convergence between national defence plans and EU collective endeavours requires a gradual synchronisation and mutual adaptation of defence planning processes and enhance our capability development practices.

    At the same time, ensuring complementarity and avoiding duplications between CARD, as well as the Capability Development Plan (CDP), and respective NATO processes, such as the NATO Defence Planning Process (NDPP), is key for the fulfilment of our efforts.

    With the first CARD report on the table, it is now the right moment to assess the implementation and achievements of the CARD process and look at the challenges awaiting us in the short and medium term.

    Given the role expected to be played by CARD, this would probably be the main EU vehicle to harmonise and synchronise the process of addressing the shortfalls, and this should be duly synchronised with the NDPP.

    In concrete terms, how does your country intend to use the CARD findings and recommendations?

    Romania remains keen on making progress to better integrate EU initiatives and processes into the national defence planning system. Beyond the harmonisation of the planning processes we are also seeking coherence of output in concrete terms, demonstrating that the complementarity of efforts also covers projects which deliver results, in particular those developing capabilities under the PESCO framework.

    We strongly believe that, through CARD, we could contribute to delivering on the agreed capability priorities, recognising shortfalls and identifying all necessary measures to be taken in order to mitigate their effects.

    What is crucial is to establish the output-oriented link between these efforts as the pieces completing the puzzle that will lead to real progress: more effective European defence cooperation which supports Member States to develop the capabilities they really need, together.

    As I mentioned earlier, we see the challenge of ensuring coherent capability development which takes into account the trans-Atlantic dimension. With 21 EU Member States in NATO, we have to ensure that EU and NATO defence planning processes are mutually reinforcing and provide a coherent output.

    With the first CARD report delivered, are we moving closer to a Europe of Defence?

    In our view, defence initiatives (PESCO, CARD, EDF) set a new level of ambition for the EU in taking greater responsibility for its own defence. These initiatives represent key cooperation tools for a more coherent European landscape of defence capabilities and an integrated approach.

    Although the CARD process is quite young and has a positive collective dynamic, we are now more committed to further focus our efforts on embedding the EU defence initiatives into national defence planning processes and to making better use of these tools.

    With the results of the first full CARD cycle delivered, Ministers of Defence now have for the first time a full and comprehensive overview of the entire European defence landscape in order to decide what future steps can be made to transform our joint efforts into a more efficient output.

    In this context, we expect to see different pieces of the larger picture coming together and getting a new impetus in the efforts to consolidate the EU’s role on security and defence. From this perspective we consider the time is ripe to enter a new phase in implementing European defence initiatives and achieve better integration.

    To conclude, I want to express the belief that strengthening our cooperation will further contribute to reaching the EU Level of Ambition and to consolidate the EU-NATO strategic partnership.

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  • What has been the biggest added-value or lesson learnt of the first CARD, from your perspective?

    Besides the inherent value of the CARD as a tool to provide decision-makers with useful recommendations and a comprehensive picture of the European defence landscape, I strongly believe that the biggest added-value of 2020’s CARD is the completion, for the first time, of a full CARD cycle. This is a milestone in the building of the European capability development process that cannot be underestimated.

    In addition, I consider that the six focus areas highlighted in 2020’s CARD report, as well as the identification of a large number of collaborative opportunities, provide a solid basis for a renewed European cooperation effort from 2025 onwards.

    In concrete terms, how does your country intend to use the CARD findings and recommendations?

    In the current strategic context of growing geopolitical competition between China and the United States, European countries face a formidable challenge. They must collectively preserve their ability to act as credible security providers, by filling-in the defence capability gaps caused by more than one decade of underinvestment, while at the same time dealing with the effects of an unprecedented economic crisis.

    Spain intends to make the most of the collaborative opportunities identified by CARD, in order to mitigate the effects of this crisis in its defence budget and, by doing so, also contribute to the development of the priority capabilities required by the European Union to fulfill its Level of Ambition.

    With the first CARD report delivered, are we moving closer to a Europe of Defence?

    2020’s CARD report is just a baby-step in the endeavour of defragmenting the European defence landscape. At the same time, it is also a gigantic step forward in the longer-term effort of embedding European Union’s Capability Development priorities into Member States’ planning processes. Results will not be visible in the short term, and we will need to give time before we will start to see the first encouraging results, but it is amazing to realise how far we have moved forward since 2016, when we started to put in place the foundations of the suite of initiatives (CARD, PESCO, EDF...) that we are now using to develop the capabilities required by the European Union.

    By the same token I strongly believe that the time has come to concentrate our efforts on achieving greater coherence. Coherence needs to be addressed at all levels: (1) within the EU, by assuring the synchronisation of all the initiatives already in place; (2) at a national level, by guaranteeing a sound integration of EU’s capability development tools in national planning processes; and (3) by continuously auditing the input-output link existing between EU’s capability priorities and the capabilities obtained by means of multinational collaborative programmes.

    Finally, and from a broader perspective, we will also need to persist in our efforts to build a shared European strategic culture. I personally consider this common culture as a pre-requisite to the building of a Europe of Defence; our future Strategic Compass will be instrumental to this end.

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