European defence matters is the title of this year’s annual conference of the European Defence Agency. It is one that is wholly appropriate as the defence community prepares for Heads of States and Government discussing defence topics at the European Council at the end of the year, and beyond. This conference will serve as an important platform to prepare and shape that key event.
The European Defence Agency’s mission is to support Member States in their efforts to develop military capabilities as well as to enhance European cooperation in Research &Technology (R&T) . What is of key importance for me is that the Agency is at the service of European Member States, including when it comes to current or future operations.
When in November 2011 Defence Ministers approved eleven Pooling & Sharing priorities, they sent a clear signal that, in times of austerity, complex operations and highly advanced technology, acting together is essential if Europe is to preserve and develop the capabilities it requires. The Agency’s Pooling & Sharing projects on Air-to-Air Refuelling and satellite communications are but two examples. Their relevance was demonstrated during the Libya operation; and reconfirmed more recently in Mali.
The Air-to-Air Refuelling initiative has four work-strands to take care of short-, mid- and long-term solutions. Ten Member States have agreed to work together to acquire new tanker aircraft. And in the short–term, we will soon see an EDA-organised clearance campaign for Italian tankers to refuel other European aircraft.
In the area of satellite communications, we have launched a procurement cell, which allows contributing Member States to benefit from commonly procured communication capacity. The cell can – and indeed shortly will – be used during operations to facilitate access to this scarce resource. The Agency is also examining longer-term activities in this domain, for example through the Pooling & Sharing of future governmental satellite communication assets.
Today, we will look at lessons from past cooperative projects, at the longer-term goals, and at what new impulses are required to achieve them. Synergies between civil and military actors are cornerstones of future success. The EU needs to mobilise the instruments available through the full range of its policies. Today we are extending the EU’s Comprehensive Approach into the area of capabilities.
But political will at the highest level is essential. Success will require the active involvement of those who are responsible for providing our soldiers with the necessary capabilities: capabilities encompassing not only equipment, but also training, employment and logistic support. We need a cutting-edge industry to support our defence, our innovation, our growth and our security of supply. That is why particular attention to European industrial and technological potential is vital in this time of financial austerity. Industry needs the oxygen of a well-functioning market. But it also needs programmes, today and in the future. Industry also has a central role to play in providing solutions through cooperation.
To conclude, success will require political will, engagement by national defence administrations, and the involvement of industry. We are therefore honoured to have gathered here today key players from the EU, from government, the military and industry. We look forward to your discussions. I am confident that they will provide direction to and indeed inspire our work.
Chief Executive, European Defence Agency
- This welcome was taken from the conference programme leaflet.
- Speech by Herman Van Rompuy, Council President
- Speech by Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission and Head of the European Defence Agency.