BRUSSELS --- The European Defence Agency’s (EDA) ministerial Steering Board met this Tuesday afternoon under the chairmanship of the Head of the Agency, Federica Mogherini. Defence ministers discussed the Head of Agency’s report on the implementation of EDA’s long-term review and of the statute of the Agency agreed in 2015.
They also tasked EDA to pursue its work in key research and capability development domains. In the margins of the meeting, a new military mobility programme on cross-border movement permissions was signed.
Implementation of EDA’s long-term review and the 2015 Council decision
Ministers welcomed the presentation by the Head of Agency of the report on the implementation of the conclusions and recommendations of EDA’s long term review (LTR, endorsed in May 2017) which reinforced EDA’s mission on three aspects: as the main intergovernmental prioritisation instrument at EU level in support of capability development; as the preferred cooperation forum and management support structure at EU level to engage in technology and capability development activities; and as a central operator with regard to EU funded defence-related activities and military voice in wider EU polices. In parallel to the implementation of the Council decision of 2015, the LTR adjustments allowed EDA to adapt to the fast-changing European defence landscape and the new requirements stemming from the EU defence initiatives that followed the 2016 EU Global Strategy: CARD, PESCO, European Defence Fund.
Reflecting the Head of Agency’s report, Ministers acknowledged the important support role EDA plays in the implementation of these initiatives as well as in ensuring coherence among them. They tasked the Agency to continue its coordination with the European External Action Services (EEAS including EU Military Staff), the EU Military Committee and the European Commission in their respective areas of responsibility, and to pursue coherence of output and avoidance of unnecessary duplication with NATO.
The Steering Board agreed to revert to the review of the 2015 Council decision on EDA’s statute, seat and operational rules in 2020.
Implementation of EDA’s key taskings and next steps
Ministers were also provided with a comprehensive update on the progress made in the numerous technology and capability development activities currently underway in the Agency. It shows that EDA manages a constantly growing number of projects and programmes which is set to even further increase in the future, also as a result of Member States’ request for support on PESCO projects.
Among the many research and technology domains in which EDA is active, a particular emphasis was put on Artificial intelligence (AI). In order to better understand the potential future military applications of AI, Ministers agreed on a two-step approach.
The first phase will see the creation of a specific EDA cross-Directorate ad-hoc team which will develop a “AI Definition, Taxonomy and Glossary Document”, as well as increased collaboration with EU stakeholders (especially the Commission) and the launch of an Innovation Prize in the area of AI. The second step, later this year, will consist of in-depth analyses of concrete AI defence applications in areas where capability gaps exist.
Ministers also welcomed the Agency’s contribution to the identification of initial lessons related to the 2018 revision of the Capability Development Plan (CDP), the CARD Trial Run, the first PESCO projects and the Preparatory Action on Defence Research. These lessons identified should be reflected and taken into account, as appropriate, in the further development of the defence initiatives, it was stressed.
The Steering Board also asked the Agency to pursue the implementation of the 2018 EU Capability Development Priorities through robust and output-driven Strategic Context Cases (SCCs). EDA was asked to present to Capability Directors in June 2019 for endorsement the landscaping part of the SCCs, including their avenues of approach to tackle the capability shortfalls and lack of coherence in the European defence landscape, in order to inform the further implementation of the EU defence initiatives.
The Agency was also invited to present to the Steering Board in February 2020 detailed roadmaps with objectives and milestones for those activities that, subject to the necessary ad-hoc decisions by Member States, could be taken forward in the Agency framework.
In the margins of the Steering Board, ministers also signed the new EDA programme on “Optimising cross border movement permission in Europe” The programme aims at decreasing the administrative burden for military movement in the framework of the Agency’s work on military mobility.