Tuesday, 3 April 2012


Europe has been told to get its act together on defence. Robert Gates in his valedictory speech in Brussels last year observed that a greater degree of Europe’s responsibility for its own defence cannot be “coaxed, demanded or imposed from across the Atlantic”, it will take leadership from European political leaders and policy makers. The message has been repeated by a range of senior US officials.

On 22 March the EU Defence Ministers stepped up to the plate demonstrating their commitment to maintain and develop robust defence capabilities in Europe through increased pooling and sharing efforts.

Meeting as the European Defence Agency’s Steering Board, Ministers endorsed a political declaration on air-to-air refueling to effectively address a critical capability shortfall that was thrown into sharp relief during Operation United Protector in Libya (U.S. provided 80% of the AAR capabilities required for Libyan air operations but indicated that will not be willing to carry so much of the burden in future). Noting the potential for both major operational enhancements and savings that can be generated by a cooperative approach, Ministers agreed to further develop air-to-air refueling capabilities in Europe as a matter of priority. These capabilities will be made available for potential use in EU, NATO, and other operations. The European Defence Agency (EDA) will support Member States in developing interoperable European solutions to overcome current shortfalls and options for meeting the future requirements. In the short term, EDA will facilitate the wider use of existing European air-to-air refueling capabilities. EDA will also help develop a range of both acquisition and commercial options and rationalization of through-life costs to increase strategic tanker capacity for the timeframe 2020 and beyond. EDA is already working on concrete solutions including a Strategic Airlift Consortium/Command type model based on contribution in kind and/or multinational procurement of new tankers, which would allow for flexibility. Member States have informally indicated that at least eight additional AAR platforms could be acquired through multinational procurement. Seeking greater efficiencies, affordability and economies of scale, EDA will explore possibilities for sharing of infrastructure, maintenance, logistic support, basing, and training.
This endeavor is part of the Pooling and Sharing initiative launched by EU Defence Ministers at Ghent in 2010 to strengthen European defence capabilities through enhanced cooperation in times of financial austerity.  Pooling and Sharing efforts gathered momentum last November when defence ministers agreed on eleven areas for cooperation: Medical Field Hospitals, Air to Air Refueling, Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance, Pilot Training, European Transport Hubs, Smart Munitions, Naval Logistics and Training, Helicopter Training Programme, Maritime Surveillance Networking and European Satellite Communication Procurement Cell. All of these projects have made progress, in many cases significant, not only delivering capability improvements but also providing the momentum and confidence-building, critical for Pooling & Sharing to be taken forward on a more sustained and consolidated basis. 

Obviously, the actual practice of pooling and sharing will not happen instantly. It requires hard work to get projects started and followed through. The transition from a national approach to a collaborative one – such as pooling and sharing – is fundamentally about a change of mindset and can only be a gradual process.  Member States have to consider whether they can accept giving up some of national control and agree on more interdependence.  These are challenging notions, particularly in the area of defence, where sovereignty plays a significant role in national decision-making.

EDA Chief Executive, Claude France Arnould, has stressed repeatedly that pooling and sharing is not an ephemeral exercise – we need continuous political impetus and sustained commitment to transform ideas into practical developments and effective projects.

Therefore, the EU Defence Ministers’ belief that it is better to have excellent collective capabilities instead of unsustainable or unattainable national ones should not be underestimated. Moreover, this points toward a growing consensus among European political leaders and policy makers that without a strong security and defence policy in the EU, which is underpinned by credible military capabilities, Europe risks becoming a marginalized, second-tier actor.

In view of the U.S. 'pivot' towards Asia and the Middle East, Europeans are expected to do more by themselves. And they are already on the road to doing so. The rumors of Europe’s demise as a military player seem exaggerated. EU Member States still spend on defence almost 200 billion Euros per year. Invested wisely that can buy you a lot of military capability. The Pooling and Sharing efforts complemented by Smart Defense will help to make better use of these resources and will ultimately contribute to significantly improving European capabilities for Member States to make available to support EU, and indeed NATO.

Ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago, this sends a clear signal that Europeans are ready to shoulder their share of the defense and security burden.

Anna Maria Barcikowska is a Senior Officer at the European Defence Agency and
a member of Young Atlanticist Working Group at the Atlantic Council.

The views expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Defence Agency.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Report of the Conference

A Report of this successful EDA Annual Conference will be published soon by the European Defence Agency.
To check the latest news about EDA activities, visitors are invited to visit http://www.eda.europa.eu/.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Monday, 30 January 2012

Programme - latest version

The latest version of the programme is available here.

Conference video coverage

EDA’s Annual Conference arrivals, speeches extracts and press point videos will be broadcasted tomorrow by EBS+ Channel.
Estimated time: 15.00 (Brussels time).

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Message of Klaus Eberhardt, President of the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe

The EDA Annual Conference offers the potential to converge on a bold new perspective in order to break from the status quo in defence and industry collaboration, create a winning future strategy, and demonstrate to stakeholders the urgency to execute this quickly and efficiently.
Klaus Eberhardt, President of the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe