Yesterday, the European Commission published its European Defence Action Plan (EDAP). The EDAP is closely linked with and complementary to the Global Strategy’s Implementation Plan on Security and Defence, which sets out a new level of ambition for the EU, as well as the implementation of the EU-NATO Joint Declaration which was signed at the Warsaw Summit in July 2016.

Comprised of three pillars, much of the EDAP focuses on capability needs and support to the European defence industry. Key proposals include:

  • Establish a European Defence Fund to support investment in joint research and the joint development of defence equipment and technologies.

The proposed Fund would include two “windows” – a research window and a capability window -which are complementary but different in their legal structure and budget sourcing. The former will fund collaborative research in innovative defence technologies. The Commission has already proposed €25million for defence research as part of the 2017 EU budget, and expects that this budget allocation could grow to a total of €90 million until 2020. Under the post-2020 EU Multiannual Financial Framework, the Commission intends to propose a dedicated defence research programme with an estimated amount of €500 million per year.

The latter window, meanwhile, would act as a financial tool allowing participating Member States to purchase certain assets together to reduce their costs. The capabilities would be agreed by the Member States, who would own the technology and equipment.

  • Foster investments in SMEs, start-ups, mid-caps and other suppliers to the defence industry

The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and European Investment Bank (EIB) group already provide financial support for the development of a number of dual-use activities. The Commission will support EIB efforts to improve access to funding by the defence supply chains. It will promote EU co-financing of productive investment projects and the modernisation of the defence supply chains. Under the ‘Blueprint for Sectoral Co-operation on Skills’, the Commission will support cooperation in the defence sector to ensure people have the right skills and technological ability to generate innovation.

  • Strengthen the Single Market for defence

The Commission will seek to strengthen the conditions for an open and competitive defence market in Europe to help companies operate across borders and help Member States get best value for money in their defence procurement. To do so, the Commission will push ahead with the effective application of the two Directives on defence and security procurement and on EU transfers, facilitate the cross-border participation in defence procurement, support the development of industry standards, and promote the contribution of sectoral policies, such as EU space programmes, to common security and defence priorities.

The actions proposed in this European Defence Action Plan support the development of the key capabilities necessary for the security of the Union and its citizens, leading to a stronger EU in defence, which ultimately means a stronger NATO.

The Commission will now present and discuss the EDAP, in particular the creation of a European Defence Fund, with all stakeholders. Next week’s European Council meeting (15-16 December) will undoubtedly be a key milestone for deciding the way ahead, with EU leaders set to address the implementation of the Security Agenda and the strengthening of EU cooperation on external security and defence as part of the agenda.