One of the recurrent stumbling blocks in previous attempts to foster European defence cooperation and collaborative capability development has been the fact that Ministries of Defence were traditionally used to do their national defence planning and procurement in isolation without significant coordination. With no cross-border data available, it proved difficult if not impossible to get Member States engaged in collaborative projects and programmes at EU level.   

Against this backdrop, Member States decided to take up the idea - already mentioned in the 2016 EU Global Strategy - to set up a Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD). Based on a concept developed by EDA, CARD was eventually approved by the EU Council in May 2017. Since then the Agency, together with the EU Military Staff (EUMS), acts as the CARD Secretariat

CARD’s objective is to provide Member States and the EU with a picture of the existing defence capability landscape in Europe and to identify potential cooperation areas. The idea is that over time, this will lead to a gradual synchronisation and mutual adaptation of national defence planning cycles and capability development practices. Which, in turn, will ensure a more optimal use and coherence of national defence spending plans. CARD is a ‘pathfinder’ for collaborative capability development projects while, of course, avoiding duplication of work with NATO. 

After a  first trial run in 2017/2018, the first full CARD cycle was launched in autumn 2019 and completed in November 2020 with a final report submitted to Defence Ministers meeting in EDA’s Steering Board. 

First full CARD cycle (2019-2020)

In 2019-2020, the first full CARD cycle took place with EDA acting as the CARD penholder. The final CARD report was presented to Defence Ministers in November 2020. It identifies a total of 55 collaborative opportunities throughout the whole capability spectrum, considered to be the most promising, most needed or most pressing ones, also in terms of operational value. Based on this catalogue of identified opportunities, Member States are recommended  to concentrate their efforts on the following six specific ‘focus areas’ which are not only covered by the EU Capability Development Priorities agreed in 2018 but where the prospects for cooperation are also looking particularly good (encouraging number of interested Member States, national programmes already underway or in the pipeline), namely:

  • Main Battle Tanks (MBT)
  • Soldier Systems
  • Patrol Class Surface Ships
  • Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (Counter-UAS)
  • Defence applications in Space
  • Military Mobility

Launching new collaborative projects in the six focus areas can bear a “significant impact on both Member States capability profiles and the coherence of overall European capability landscape”, is stated in the report.

In addition to that, 56 options to cooperate in R&T have been identified as well. The latter span from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cyber defence, to new sensor technologies, emerging materials and energy efficient propulsion systems as well as unmanned systems and robotics. 

The CARD reveals that conditions for multinational cooperation in all six capability focus areas are “favourable”, also from a time planning perspective. Therefore, a broad participation of Member States can be expected in collaborative projects related to those areas, at system and subsystem levels, including through linkage of such new collaborative projects to already existing programmes, the report finds.

It therefore urges Member States to make full use of all identified collaborative opportunities (especially to inform national defence planners, including for the next wave of proposals in the PESCO context as well as the upcoming EDF annual work programmes).

The report also stresses that collaborative development of capabilities in these six focus areas requires industrial cooperation for prime contractors, mid-caps and SMEs with positive effects on the competitiveness of the European Defence Technology and Industrial Base (EDTIB).

The first CARD report is available here

EDA as CARD secretariat

For CARD to provide real added value, it must be fed with the most up-to-date and detailed information possible from Member States on defence plans (including spending plans), as well as the implementation of the EU capability development priorities resulting from the Capability Development Plan (CDP). The crucial task of gathering all this information lies with EDA who, together with the EUMS, acts as the CARD secretariat. 

For both the test run and the 2020 CARD cycle, it was EDA who led the work on compiling all available information. It thereby followed a methodology involving the following elements and procedural steps: 

  • Initial Information. EDA’s starting point was an analysis of all CARD relevant information already available in EDA databases or being made available by Member States, including NATO’s Defence Investment Pledge Report for those who are also NATO Allies. The result of this first initial information gathering was shared with Member States bilaterally.
  • Bilateral Dialogues. EDA then entered into bilateral dialogues with each Member State individually, in order to validate, complement and consolidate the initial information gathered in the previous phase, in consistency with NATO’s Defence Planning Process.
  • CARD Analysis. Once the bilateral dialogues were completed, the EDA compiled and analysed Member States’ contributions and produced a ‘CARD Analysis’ that presented aggregate data and identify trends regarding defence spending plans, implementation of priorities resulting from the 2014 CDP and relevant to defence research programmes, as well as opportunities for defence cooperation. This analysis was discussed with Member States and formed the basis of the final report to be submitted to Ministers.
  • CARD Report. The final CARD report, drafted by the EDA based on the outcome of the previous steps, presents the main results of the review as well as associated recommendations. The final report of the first full CARD will be presented to Defence Ministers at the Agency’s Ministerial Steering Board in November 2020.