The European Defence Agency’s Annual Conference 2019 entitled 'Taking European Defence Cooperation to the Next Level - Prospects for the decade ahead’ was opened this morning in Brussels with a message from the outgoing Head of the Agency, Federica Mogherini.
Addressing a 400-strong audience representing the whole European defence spectrum - governments, armed forces, industry, EU institutions, NATO, think tanks and media - Ms Mogherini said she had been honored to lead EDA over the past five years. She recalled the first steps and the "shared goal" set at the time, namely to make European cooperation the norm – not the exception – on defence matters. "And we took the commitment to stubbornly work on this path", she said in her message to the audience.
Federica Mogherini: "European defence cooperation has expanded like never before"
Devoting this year's Annual Conference to taking stock of what has been achieved since then, especially with the new EU defence initiatives - revised Capability Development Plan (CDP), Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), European Defence Fund (EDF) - proved a good choice because during that short timeframe, "European defence cooperation has expanded like never before”, Ms Mogherini said. "Five years ago, no one imagined how far we would have come. But we made it (...) And the Agency has been at the core of our work and of all the progress we have achieved together". Importantly, all this impressive work has been done while strengthening cooperation with NATO, "because a stronger European Union makes NATO stronger", Ms Mogherini said.
EDA made "essential contributions to crafting these initiatives all along the way, and now plays a central role in their implementation", the Head of the Agency stressed. "The Agency is the secretariat for both CARD and PESCO, together with the European External Action Service and the EU Military Staff. It is also a central operator for EU-funded defence activities. The Agency is today in a unique position to contribute to coherence among the various initiatives, efficiency and a steady focus on our capability priorities". She also insisted on the importance of ensuring a good and efficient cooperation between the EU institutions and bodies involved (EDA, EEAS, Commission, Council) but also with the Member Stares. "This will be even more crucial in the years ahead, to make the most of all the tools we have set up together", Ms Mogherini concluded.
Michel Barnier: "We want the UK to be our closest an most strategic partner in security and defence"
Ms Mogherini’s intervention was followed by a keynote speech delivered by Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, Head of the Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom and former chair of the 2002 European Convention’s Working Group on Defence which laid the foundation for the creation of EDA. Brexit is an immense challenge and will have consequences, sometimes underestimated ones, on our citizens and businesses, including our defence industries, Mr Barnier said. This has to be dealt with in an "international context which is more challenging than ever with instability becoming the new norm", he stated. Against that backdrop, "Europe must be the shaper of a better global order", and in order to do that, "Europe must upgrade its cooperation if it wants to uphold its values". The UK must be integral part of this endeavor because even if it leaves the European Union, it will not leave Europe, Mr Barnier said.Therefore, the EU wants the "closest possible partnership" with the United Kingdom, also in foreign and security policy, including to build cutting-edge defence capabilities and interoperability among our Armed Forces. "Cooperation is Europe's DNA. Therefore, we want the UK to be our closest and most strategic partner", as a member of NATO and as a member of our "European family of Security and Defence" , stated Mr Barnier.
Jorge Domecq: “We need a complete change of mindset”
Previously, in his welcome speech, EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq had recalled the huge progress EU defence cooperation has made over the past three years, as well as the role EDA plays in the implementation of all new EU defence tools. “Even though much has been achieved over the last years, even more needs to be done. If we want EU defence initiatives to lead towards a more coherent and integrated European defence landscape with a more capable, deployable, interoperable and sustainable set of military capabilities and forces that are able to deliver on these strategic priorities, we need sustained efforts and unfaltering political commitment”, he said.
A key factor for success of the new EU defence initiatives’ success will be the extent to which Member States will actually use and embed the new cooperation tools into their national defence planning processes, Mr Domecq stressed. “This is certainly not an easy task. In my discussions in capitals I have seen that embedding the EU defence initiatives into national processes not only puts a burden on financial and human resources but it also requires a complete change of mindset, sometimes even a change of culture”.