INNSBRUCK, Austria --- Good meeting, lively discussion. Meeting fell between two Summits. First in December, which asked for urgent work on two key issues: European Defence R&T, and Capabilities. The second Summit will be in June, when European Heads of State and Government expect detailed proposals.
Today, we focussed mainly on R&T. We all know that we have to raise our game on defence as a whole if we are to carry out more crisis-management operations under the European Security and Defence Policy. R&T is the seed-corn for our future equipment capabilities, and pursuing new technologies will give us the capabilities we need in the future and strengthen our industries and research institutions.
But we must spend more, spend more together and spend more effectively.
The European Defence Agency is exactly the right place to grapple with these challenges and I am very pleased that Defence Ministers from the 24 participating Member States had such a good, engaged discussion at our EDA Steering Board meeting today.
It was not a day for decisions. Those will come when we meet again in May, in the run-up to the June Summit. But we asked for a number of important ideas to be developed for us.
First, we want the Agency to embark immediately on a pilot exercise to show how we can translate broad policy objectives into specific research projects and technologies to pursue together. A possible area for this pilot work is Force Protection. So we want early proposals for a programme of R&T in this area, or another area of general interest which the Member States, or at least some of these, might decide to fund together.
Second, we asked Nick Witney and his colleagues at the Agency to make detailed proposals for us to consider in May on how such a programme and budget could be run – in effect, to offer us the design for a joint investment mechanism.
We also want to see proposals for an over-arching European Defence R&T strategy, to identify the technologies of the future which European defence should support.
Finally, we agreed that the EDA should commission a study of the impact of defence R&T on the wider European economy, because of its strategic importance and the need to ensure that we have control over some of these vital new technologies.
There is a lot more work to do before I can go back to the European Council in June with a detailed programme on the Hampton Court Agenda, but thanks to the work of the Agency and the support of the Defence Ministers, we are well on track.