By Alexander Weis, EDA Chief Executive Designate
The answer to this brief question is quite simple: a new Chief Executive and important changes in the top management team. Of course, the question behind this is much more interesting, namely what priorities will this new team set, what projects will it introduce, and how will it point the way to the future?
Will we see continuity in the work of the Agency and in cooperation with the Member States, or will we witness change?
Just as handwriting is extremely individual and characteristic of a person, so are leadership style and working methods, as is the personal shaping of the Agency within the framework laid down in the Joint Action. As Deputy National Armaments Director in Germany, I worked closely together with the Agency for almost two years. Admittedly, my perspective of the Agency and its work was from the outside. I devoted most of my energy to optimizing Germany’s position for this great undertaking. I promoted the Agency among colleagues and staff and argued for active, creative and intelligent cooperation with it because I am convinced that, in view of the diverse efforts in European defence, the course adopted with the foundation of the EDA and the efficient pooling of European forces and resources is the only sensible choice.
This European process must be shaped by all Member States, including Germany. This was my firm intention. Europe must shoulder its ever-increasing political responsibility by, among other things, improving its capability to take action on security matters. Harmonising our force capability requirements, conducting joint work in Research & Technology, realizing joint projects, and creating a common defence equipment market are prerequisites for this capability to act in the framework of ESDP. The EDA is at the centre of all these efforts.
As Germany sees it, Nick Witney, the first Chief Executive, has done an excellent job. He succeeded in integrating the Agency into the ESDP architecture by ensuring the quality of the Agency’s work. In addition to the highly successful establishment of the Agency in terms of personnel and organisation, he prepared long-term strategies such as the Long-Term Vision, the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base strategy and the Capability Development Plan, and helped to introduce initial concrete projects, notably the Code of Conduct on Defence Procurement and the Joint Investment Programme on Force Protection.
With my move from one side of the table to the other, I am, of course, bringing with me the experience I have gained as a representative of a Member State working together with the Agency. Perhaps those of us now sitting at the table will be able to further “round off” any sharp corners.
Thanks to the work conducted by Nick and his team, we -- the new team -- are in a position to continue many activities and build on past achievements. It is important for the continued success of the Agency that it proves its usefulness to the Member States and, especially, their Armed Forces.
This can only be done on the basis of concrete projects in which urgently needed force capabilities are achieved swiftly and cost-effectively.
For this reason, I am giving priority to initiating joint projects as quickly as possible. We must therefore speed up work on the Capabilities Development Plan. Projects are the core business of the Agency. Through them, the Agency demonstrates its value-added for the Member States.
The Agency must be further prepared in terms of structure and organisation for projects of all types with their outstanding impact on integration. This will be a further priority of mine.
These projects will also make a constructive contribution to the European defence equipment market and will have a dynamic effect on the measures already successfully initiated in this field.
In addition, I see a need to intensify communication with the Member States. Relations between organizations are first and foremost relations between people. At the invitation of various Member States, I have already visited several capitals with my new office in mind. The talks that I participated in were extremely open and constructive and marked by a desire to cooperate.
As I see it, successful work in the Agency can only be carried out if we understand how defence is organised in the Member States and what their interests and views are on issues of European defence policy.
Finally, I will do my utmost to ensure that our work at the Agency is highly transparent, for that is the only way to foster understanding, acceptance and credibility.
I myself am just one worker in the European vineyard. What is important is that we succeed in using the cultural diversity of Europe to produce an excellent wine. We can do this if we take the best that every Member State has to offer. Together as a team in the Agency and through an in-depth dialogue with the Member States, we will succeed in raising the profile and strengthening the capacity of the European Security and Defence Policy.
I am looking forward to this task.