The Steering Board of 18 November was chaired for the first time by Federica Mogherini, the new Head of the European Defence Agency. It was an important opportunity for Defence Ministers to assess the progress achieved since December 2013. It was also an ideal forum for the new High Representative and Vice-President of the European Commission to discuss cooperation on military capabilities with European ministers and to prepare for the June 2015 European Council.
Progress on the four key programmes
Four projects have been endorsed by the 2013 European Council: Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR), Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), Governmental Satellite Communications (GovSatcom) and Cyber Defence. In line with their respective roadmaps, the progress made in each of these four key capability areas has been welcomed by Defence Ministers during the Steering Board:
- Air-to-Air Refuelling: under the lead of the Netherlands, work is progressing towards the establishment of a European strategic tanker capability by 2020. A contract for new air-to-air refuelling aircraft is expected to be placed by the end of 2015.
- RPAS: EDA supports the development of a European Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) RPAS through a number of projects focusing on certification, air traffic insertion, airworthiness and harmonisation of flight crew training. The Agency is facilitating efforts to develop a new MALE RPAS capability for the next decade by supporting Member States willing to join such an initiative. EDA is also backing a “European MALE RPAS community” for systems that are already in service.
- GovSatcom: the requirements of European military users (Common Staff Target) for the next generation of Governmental Satellite Communications have been formally endorsed by Member States. This paves the way to the preparation phase of a future cooperative programme, to be completed by the end of 2016 under Spanish lead.
- Cyber Defence: in line with the EU Cyber Security Strategy, EDA is working on specific projects to increase its Member States’ capabilities in this domain. The Agency has already supported the operational headquarters of Operation EUFOR RCA by providing cyber awareness training. Work is underway to develop deployable “Cyber Defence situational awareness kits” by 2015.
Incentives for cooperation
As tasked by the European Council, the Agency has developed proposals to incentivise cooperation, mainly through non-market distorting fiscal measures and pooled procurement. During the Steering Board, Defence ministers welcomed this progress as a basis for further work.
- Fiscal measures: in March 2014, the Belgian Ministry of Finance granted VAT exemption to EDA’s ad hoc projects and activities. Three projects have already benefitted from that exemption: JDEAL, C-IED Manual Neutralisation Techniques and EU Satcom Market. This VAT exemption gives a real bonus to defence cooperation among Member States.
- Pooled procurement: Proposals were discussed for the establishment of a pooled procurement mechanism to facilitate cooperative acquisition and support of defence equipment, while improving interoperability. This mechanism, whose creation still requires deeper discussion among Member States, would address priorities defined by them.
As requested by the December 2013 European Council, Defence Ministers have adopted a Policy Framework to foster more systematic and long-term defence cooperation. This document aims to provide a coherent basis for defence cooperation in Europe, from priority setting through to in-service support, disposal and decommissioning. It offers tangible support to national defence reviews and provides a platform for greater convergence in defence planning.
Complementing this Policy Framework, the revised Capability Development Plan (CDP) endorsed by Member States earlier this year will be an essential element for the setting of cooperative capability development priorities. It provides a list of priority actions based on lessons learned from European operations, future security scenarios and long-term trends. It addresses the Member States’ priorities for their armed forces and, as such, will form the basis of future European collaborative programmes.