This important priority setting is based upon the Capability Development Plan (CDP), which is the central reference for defence planning in the EU and the baseline for all European defence-related initiatives, such as the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the European Defence Fund (EDF), and any future EU Defence supporting tools.

Initially set up in 2008, the CDP was revised in 2011, 2014, 2018 and 2023 under the auspices of the European Defence Agency which is the CDP ‘architect’, in close cooperation with its Member States and with the active contributions of the EU Military Committee (EUMC) and the EU Military Staff (EUMS).

 Last CDP revision took place  in 2023, leading to the definition of  22 EU Capability Development Priorities, agreed by EU Ministries of Defence. They are the outcome of an in-depth assessment of short, medium, and long-term capability trend analysis. These trends cover existing capability shortfalls in the CSDP context, lessons identified from recent operations and missions, planned cooperation and potential for future European collaboration. They also encompass an analysis of long-term technology perspectives and future operational environments, including their associated requirements.

The 22 priorities cover Europe’s entire spectrum of military capabilities: the 2023 CDP revision resulted in 14 priorities across the five military domains, and a further 8 categorised under strategic enablers and force multipliers. There is no ranking between them.

The 2023 EU Capability Development Priorities are output oriented and cover a broader operational perspective and often a wide spectrum of tools beyond the military realm narrowly defined along equipment and platforms. Acknowledging the complex and interdependent nature of capability development, this CDP revision underscores the key importance of strategic enablers and the appropriate mix between the qualitative and the quantitative dimensions, thus linking with the industrial dimension.

CARD supports the operationalisation of the CDP by reviewing Member States’ implementation of the 2023 EU Capability Development Priorities. CARD offers a forum to discuss national intents with respect to implementation as well as acting as a pathfinder in helping to identify opportunities for cooperation.

By maturing projects that implement the 2023 CDP priorities, Member States will develop the necessary capabilities for the EU to act as a capable security provider and contribute to the defence of the European security order.

To this end, the CDP implementation process is supported by so-called ‘Strategic Context Cases (SCC) which outline the main characteristics, opportunities and challenges in the short, medium and long term, drawing discrete roadmaps to address the identified priorities..  

In support of this CDP revision, the coherence between capability, R&T and industrial domains will be reinforced through the revision of the two related  additional prioritisation tools managed by EDA, to ensure alignment.

In more details:

  • the Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA) which lists Member States’ common European defence research priorities as well as possible paths to achieve them. EDA and its Member States also developed the OSRA Defence Technology Taxonomy which is a classification scheme for the technologies relevant to the military and defence context. The taxonomy creates a common European reference framework for defence technologies and facilitates the connection between research and technology topics and defence capabilities. It is also used as a tool for defining the areas of responsibility of the CapTechs and identifying cross-CapTech activities. Approved by EDA’s Steering Board in early 2022, the latest updated taxonomy contains an up-to-date list of 350 technologies topics relevant for European defence, clustered into five chapters.
  • and the Key Strategic Activities (KSA) which, based on the CDP and OSRA priorities, identify the skills, technologies, manufacturing capabilities which Europe must acquire, safeguard and develop in order to move towards technological, industrial and strategic autonomy in the future.