This important priority setting is done through the Capability Development Plan (CDP), a list of capability areas in which European shortfalls have been identified and where multinational collaboration could help fill the gaps. 

Initially set up in 2008, the CDP was revised in 2011, 2014 and 2018 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).

The last CDP revision in June 2018 led to the definition of 11 European capability development priorities. They were the result of an in-depth assessment made on the basis of contributions provided by Member States, the EUMC and the EUMS on short-term, mid-term and long-term trends: capability shortfalls analyses and lessons learned from recent CSDP operations; planned capabilities and the potential for future European cooperation in each of the capability domains; and a study into the long-term capability-related and technological trends and needs (2035 and beyond). 

The 11 priorities cover Europe’s entire spectrum of military capabilities: three are related to the Command, Control and Information/Cyber domain, two to land capabilities and logistics, two to the maritime domain, while three are dedicated to the air domain. One priority focuses on cross-domain capabilities. There is no ranking between them.

The 11 priorities are currently being implemented with the objective of generating cooperative projects that will contribute to closing identified capability gaps. To this end, the CDP implementation process is supported by so-called ‘Strategic Context Cases’ (SCC) which, for each of the 11 priorities, outline the main characteristics, opportunities and challenges in the short, medium and long term.  

The CDP has particular strategic significance as it serves as a key reference for the implementation of major European defence initiatives launched following the 2016 EU Global Strategy, such as the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), and the European Defence Fund (EDF)

Besides the CDP, the Agency has initiated (and still manages) two additional prioritisation tools:

  • 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.