The first part of this year’s European Defence Agency's (EDA) Annual Conference “European Defence Matters” has been accomplished. Prominent decision-makers and frontline leaders in European defence from the worlds of military, politics, industry and academics met on 16 November 2015 to discuss European defence.
The conference participants observed one minute of silence to pay tribute to the victims of terror attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015. In the light of these tragic events, the discussion on European defence has been given a very realistic dimension, proving that European defence does matter.
“Crisis situations are not reducing; they are on the increase. The demand for the EU to act as a security provider will continue to increase. We will only be able to adequately respond to this if the Union’s foreign policy ambitions are backed by the right defence capabilities at the right time, supplied by a globally competitive and technologically advanced industrial base in Europe,” said Jorge Domecq, the EDA Chief Executive. He also underlined the necessity to underpin political will by actions, and to translate it into military objectives. Jorge Domecq stressed that “Cooperation in defence is not a natural reflex. It needs to become so: to be part of our DNA.”
A keynote speech was delivered by Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and Small Medium Sized Enterprises (SME). She underlined the importance of synergies between defence and industry. She also presented the Commission’s approach to defence, the work plan to follow as well as some ideas for stimulating defence research.
Elżbieta Bieńkowska stressed that Europe is able to provide security and contribute to international peace and stability. Regarding research, she insisted on reversing declines in spending to stimulate research: “European funding of research priorities can be a strong tool to bring all relevant actors together.” "We will only be successful if we are work together: the Commission, the European Parliament, the European Defence Agency, the European External Action Service and the Member States and industry,” she concluded.
Roundtable 1: „European defence capabilities: what’s next?”
The first roundtable discussions on the European defence cooperation and capabilities were led by prominent guests: Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Minister of Defence of the Netherlands, General Mikhail Kostarakos, (designate) Chairman of the EU Military Committee, Giovanni Soccodato, Executive Vice President Strategy of the Markets and Business Development at Finmeccanica and Daniel Koštoval, Deputy Minister for Armaments and Acquisition of the Czech Republic.
The panel discussion raised the question of the future of European defence capabilities. Moreover, defence cooperation was analysed from a political, military and industrial viewpoint.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert assessed that “we do not need more wake-up calls” and insisted that the only way to protect national sovereignty through military means is by defence cooperation. She also called for sharing plans for capability development plans among the Member States.
General Mikhail Kostarakos drew attention to the defence spending stating that “to do more with less” is no longer a good solution as it may lead to loosing combat capabilities.
Daniel Koštoval emphasised that “a political will is required to allocate more money to defence and formulate where we are going”. He also identified the need to maintain “balanced armies” taking into consideration the whole spectrum, the light and heavy equipment.
Giovanni Soccodato stressed the need for a common European market and a proper environment for defence industry to consolidate.
The speakers recognised an important role of the European Defence Agency to play in terms of capability development.