The European Defence Agency (EDA) is an agency of the European Union (EU) that promotes and facilitates integration between member states within the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The EDA is headed by the High Representative (HR/VP), and reports to the Council. The EDA was established on 12 July 2004 and is based in the Kortenberg building in Brussels, Belgium, along with a number of other CSDP bodies.
The EDA and the European External Action Service (EEAS) together form the Secretariat of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the structural integration pursued by 25 of the 28 national armed forces of the EU since 2017.
The Council established the EDA “to support the Member States and the Council in their effort to improve European defence capabilities in the field of crisis management and to sustain the European Security and Defence Policy as it stands now and develops in the future”. Within that overall mission are four functions;
- Development of defence capabilities in the field of crisis management.
- Promotion and enhancement of European armaments cooperation.
- Working to strengthen the Defence Technology and Industrial Base and for the creation of an internationally competitive European Defence Equipment Market.
- Enhancement of the effectiveness of European Defence Research and Technology.
The tasks have been distilled into four strategies:
- The Capability Development Plan (CDP) provides to Member States an auditable picture and assessment of capability trends and requirements, over the short, medium and long term, in order to inform national decisions on defence investments; this includes the identification of areas for cooperation for capability improvement, and the proposal concerning options for collective solutions. The CDP is the overall strategic tool, the ‘driver’ for R&T investment, for armaments cooperation and for the defence industries.
- The European Defence Research & Technology (EDRT) strategy aims at enhancing more effective R&T in support of military capabilities. The EDRT strategy defines the ‘Ends’ (in which key technologies to invest), the ‘Means’ (how to do this) and the ‘Ways’ to implement the ends and means through roadmaps and action plans.
- The European Armaments Cooperation (EAC) strategy is focussed on promoting and enhancing more effective European armaments co-operation in support of CSDP capability needs. The EAC strategy defines how to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of European armaments programmes by a series of actions, applying lessons learned from past experiences through a ‘Guide to Armaments Co-operation Best Practice’.
- The European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB) strategy describes the future European defence industrial landscape, based on the three Cs: Capability-driven, Competent and Competitive. The future EDTIB has to be more integrated, less duplicative and more interdependent, with increased specialisation, for example by establishing industrial centres of excellence. It refers to action fields for which Governments will be responsible, such as consolidating demand and investment. Logically, the strategy links the work on realising the future EDTIB to the Agency’s activities on the European Defence Equipment Market. Special attention is paid to the importance of Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises with their typical flexibility and capacity to innovate.
The European Defence Agency is part of several decades of steadily more formal defence cooperation in Europe. Its work is a continuation of the work of the Western European Armaments Organization (WEAO) and the Western European Armaments Group (WEAG) – it effectively represents the transference of their functions from the WEU to the EU framework, and thus continues the decommissioning of the WEU. It may also be seen as growing out of the Eurofighter Typhoon project, and other collaborative defence efforts.
Initially and up until 31 December 2013 the agency was organised into five directorates. On 20 November 2013 a new streamlined organisational structure, listed below, was announced which came into force on 1 January 2014.
At a European Council meeting on 19 December 2013, a European Air Force (EAF) consisting of surveillance drones, heavy transport airplanes, and air-to-air refuelling planes was debated. This EAF was proposed by the External Action Service of HRUFASC Catherine Ashton, and was seconded by President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz. The EAF proposal was supported by Hollande, Rajoy, Letta, Tusk and Merkel who together have QMV majority on the Council.
The debate was joined with a view presented by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Denmark), who maintained that “Nato will remain the bedrock of Euro-Atlantic security”. Rasmussen’s view prevailed on the Council at this time because QMV did not take effect in Council decisions until 1 November 2014.
Relationships with non-EU European countries
The Agency signed Administrative Arrangements with Norway (2006), Switzerland (2012), the Republic of Serbia (2013) and Ukraine (2015) enabling them to participate in EDA’s projects and programmes without exercising voting rights.
All Administrative Arrangements are approved by the European Council. The Head of the Agency is responsible for negotiating these arrangements in accordance with directives given by the EDA Steering Board.
A transcript of the European Commission represented by Michel Barnier at the Berlin Security Conference stated that “[after its withdrawal from the union] the United Kingdom will, as is its wish, become a third country when it comes to defence and security issues” and that “the UK will no longer be a member of the European Defence Agency or Europol”.