The creation of the European Defense Agency is sending ripples across the Atlantic
and raising questions about Europe diverting resources away from the North Atlantic
Trans-Atlantic tensions over European commitments to NATO have caused some
leading U.S. officials in the alliance—notably U.S. Ambassador to NATO
Nicholas Burns—to question whether a heightened focus on EU capabilities
will further sap resources that could benefit the alliance.
Not so, EDA officials counter. Instead, they maintain that any improvements
European defense establishments derived from the new agency will complement
NATO and help solve some European shortfalls in materiel and organization.
Entering full operations in early 2005, the European Defense Agency will have
a projected budget of 25 million euro a year—about $30 million—for
the next six years. The rest of this year will be dedicated to getting the operation
in gear, and for that, the agency will have 2.5 million euro ($3 million).
“The setting up of the EDA is a vital period, of course, where we determine
that it will do a practical job [and] will not be overly-bureaucratic,”
Lord William Bach of Lutterworth, the United Kingdom’s undersecretary
of state and minister of defense procurement, told National Defense. “These
early years....will prove if we can really enhance European capabilities.”
The United Kingdom and France, with support from Germany, have proposed this
intergovernmental agency to be set up within the European Union to supervise
the development of military capabilities, research and armaments.
The agency also takes upon itself the creation of up to nine elite battle groups
for rapid deployment to international trouble spots. With this plan, the EU
will have up to 1,500 soldiers able to deploy to conflict areas within 15 days.
The EU force would complement the 20,000-strong quick-reaction NATO Response
Force the alliance began forging last year for the same purpose.
“Europeans are faced with a twofold obligation: to spend more on their
defense and to spend better, [that is] organize themselves more effectively,”
said Laurent Giovachini, director of cooperation and industrial affairs at the
French Ministry of Defense and France’s armaments director within NATO
and the EU. Giovachini recently spoke to U.S. industry officials.
“We are all actively seeking to improve the operation of the European
defense market to make it more open and transparent,” Bach said during
a presentation at a U.K.-U.S. defense industry symposium in London sponsored
by the National Defense Industrial Association. “It will benefit us in
Europe to align us to more efficient industry that is better placed to understand
both our requirements and deliver the capabilities that we need.”
The agency will have several functions related to capability development, defense
research and technology, management of cooperative programs and reinforcement
of European industry, including the implementation of a European defense equipment
market, Giovachini said in an interview.
“The agency will have to pursue and coordinate, or initiate, as soon
as it will have been created, all the tasks entailed by these functions,”
According to Giovachini, the agency will help identify and implement measures
for building up an industrial and technological base in the defense realm and
assisting the European Commission in supporting initiatives to set up a competitive
European defense market.
The first aim of the agency, Bach told National Defense, is to ensure that
the 10 new members of the European Union will play their full part in European
defense and tap into their “niche capabilities that other countries do
“We also intend that it should lead to a more open system of cooperative
equipment projects and it will have a role in that field as well,” he
The agency will be able to draw upon the expertise of the EU military committee,
made up of the chiefs of defense of the 25 member states, and of the EU’s
armament directors, according to Giovachini.
The European Union has made several attempts to collaborate and bring their
defense power together, at industrial levels as well as in military operations.
These attempts have materialized in agencies and agreements that, however, lack
a focal point.
The Union’s failure to respond appropriately to the ethnic conflicts
in the Balkans during the 1990s encouraged British Prime Minister Tony Blair
and French President Jacques Chirac to launch the idea of EU defense at their
summit in St. Malo in December 1998. That led to the creation of the European
Security and Defense Policy, or ESDP.
Its objectives are to strengthen European contributions to NATO by enabling
European forces to take a larger share of the European security burden in circumstances
where NATO as a whole is not engaged. ESDP also is meant to make military forces
more rapidly deployable, effective and sustainable, and enable the European
Union to play its full role on the international stage from political dialogue
to civilian and military crisis management operations.
At the time of the summit, the 15 EU member states agreed that, when NATO is
not engaged as a whole, Europe should be capable of handling, on its own, the
peacekeeping and peacemaking operations known as the “Petersberg Tasks.”
They also agreed that the time had come to carry out the first EU-led operations,
such as in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and in the Democratic Republic
of the Congo.
This political-military impetus was all to the benefit of European armament
cooperation, said Giovachini. Five European countries joined the United Kingdom
in its efforts to develop the Meteor air-to-air missile. Belgium and Spain joined
France in the Hélios II military observation satellite program, conducted
in close coordination with Germany and Italy, which are acquiring similar capabilities.
The much-delayed military cargo plane program, the Airbus M400, also took off
last June, with an order of 180 aircraft for a total amount of 17 billion euro
($20.6 billion). The order was handled by Organisation Conjointe de Coopération
en matière d’Armement, or OCCAR.
This European Joint Organization for Armaments Cooperation became a legal entity
in 2001, acting as a multi-national agent on collaborative projects for its
Meanwhile, the progress made by the ESDP has helped revive the process of consolidating
European industry, said Giovachini. The six leading European arms manufacturing
countries—France, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden—now
are trying to implement the provisions of the framework agreement known as the
letter of intent, or LoI, to simplify business for transnational defense companies,
while ensuring to the governments some form of control.
On the operational level, the European nations also decided that they needed
to work on capabilities to rapidly deploy and sustain about 60,000 soldiers,
up to corps level, for at least one year. However, when serious shortfalls cropped
up in nations’ capability commitments, the EU council launched the European
Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP) to address a long list of shortfalls, including
attack helicopters; special operations forces; unmanned aerial vehicles; nuclear,
biological and chemical equipment and carrier-based airpower.
Despite all these endeavors, there still is insufficient coordination of defense
requirements across the EU and no unity of supply, European officials asserted.
The creation of the EDA would not only streamline processes, but also would
be expected to be at the core of the development of a European foreign and defense
Specific programs should be launched in the medium term as a result of the
ECAP working groups that have been addressing the capabilities gaps within the
past couple of years, Giovachini said. “The ECAP process will be animated
by the agency.”
The agency will have to look for quick wins as well as predict the needs of
European defense beyond 2020, Nick Witney, the head of the EDA establishment
team, remarked at a press dinner hosted by New Defense Agenda.
Witney warned against expecting too much, however, because common defense procurement
will not be able to take place within the next five years. He also said that
he could not see the agency taking on projects of the multi-billion Eurofighter
scale for several years.
Anticipating criticism from the United States—the lead nation in NATO—Bach
countered that EDA is “absolutely not going to contribute to the creation
of a protectionist Fortress Europe and our European allies know that very well.”
“It will benefit us in Europe to align us to more efficient industry
that is better placed to understand both our requirements and deliver the capabilities
that we need,” he said at the NDIA conference. “And I will stress
that this should also be welcome to the United States.”
Bach said, the agency will help Europeans increase the capability they would
contribute to NATO and coalition forces, and will create opportunity for companies
that are based in the United States. “It is, of course, a long way to
go,” he said.
Bach’s comments came amid a tense and controversial period for international
cooperation, given opposition to freeing up U.S. export controls on certain
defense items within the House Armed Services and House International Relations
committees. European leaders view some House proposals as attempts to block
possible avenues of collaboration.
“In contrast to European moves to begin long awaited reduction of market
values, there are those in the United States who advocated heading in the opposite
direction—closing off opportunity for cooperation and erecting barriers
in the market place,” Bach said. “This will undoubtedly harm the
U.K. both in capability and industrial returns. I believe strongly it will also
damage the U.S. industry with which we have a very close relationship, and from
which we acquire important and sometimes large elements of our national capability.”
NATO shortfalls already have become apparent in the first mission outside continental
Europe. Charged with providing security in the Afghan capital of Kabul and the
surrounding area, the International Security and Assistance Force suffers from
a shortage of equipment, vehicles and personnel.
In particular, past ISAF commanders have complained of a lack of helicopters
for missions and personnel to man and guard the Kabul International Airport.
Progress in Afghanistan is lagging behind, say critics, because several of NATO’s
member states do not seem to be making serious commitments to ISAF, either in
troops or in money.
“Every project of the agency will contribute to reinforce NATO capabilities,”
Giovachini told National Defense. “From a general point of view, the EU
has to become a credible partner of NATO. Europe has to provide a more appropriate
level of implication in its own defense and in the new missions of the alliance.”
Giovachini predicts that NATO will positively view the strengthened engagement
of Europe in defense matters. “We have to keep in mind that the agency
will be essentially composed of countries whose collective security interests
are based on their membership in NATO,” he said.
The best way for Europeans to convince the United States of the merits of EU
defense would be for them to enhance their military capabilities, asserted Charles
Grant, director of the U.K. Centre for European Reform.
With a combined defense budget of 160 billion euro and 1.6 million troops,
EU countries together boast the world’s second- largest military force.
While the EU spends just under half of what the U.S. invests in defense, it
has been reported that its military capability amounts to only a tenth of what
the U.S. gets for its money because of duplicate and incompatible equipment.
By pooling defense efforts, the EU saves up to five billion euros a year, according
Europe, however, will have to come up with ways to split funds between the
alliance and the agency.
“The NATO and the EU capability processes have to keep standing alongside
each other on a complementary basis,” said Giovachini. “Their relationships
are ruled by already existing arrangements which have to be implemented and,
if necessary, strengthened.”
To avoid the bureaucratic quagmires currently plaguing NATO, Giovachini said
that in the initial stage the agency will assume operative functions and will
also rely on external cooperative initiatives such as LoI and OCCAR, “which
could be fully integrated in its mature stage.”
As a consequence, he said, the agency will have a 100 maximum staff in the
next several years with most of the required positions provided on a temporary
basis by national experts.