Defence is high on the European institutions’ agendas. Recently, the October European Council conclusions highlighted progress achieved in a number of defence-related files: not only in various aspects of the European Defence Fund, but also in the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the Annual Defence Review (CARD).
European Defence Industrial Development Programm (EDIDP)
Since the announcement of the launch of the European Defence Fund last June, discussions have also progressed regarding the Commission’s proposed Regulation for a European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) which is part of the so-called “Capability Window” of the Defence Fund. The idea of the EDIDP is to support the early phases of cooperative defence programmes during the post-research phase (up to the level of prototypes) and its proposed budget is €500 Million for 2019-2020.
Support would come in the form of grants to industry, with varying funding levels depending on the type of action. However, the most difficult issues are how to secure the participation of SMEs and the conditions of eligibility of participants.
In its June Communication on the Defence Fund, the Commission also suggested that this initiative should be followed by a more substantial programme during the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), with an annual budget of €1 Billion; this EU funding is expected to leverage national financing from the Member States with an expected multiplying effect of 5.
Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR)
Concerning the so-called “Research Window” of the Defence Fund, work on the Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PA) is ongoing. Twenty-four bids in response to the first calls for proposals for the 2017 projects (and involving around 190 participants) are being assessed, and the Commission is now working on the preparation of the Work Programme 2018. € 90 Million were earmarked for the three years (2017-2019), with €25 Million approved for 2017 and the budget for the 2018 (likely €30 M) is scheduled to be approved in December. Other calls for proposals will follow in 2018 and 2019. The European Defence Agency is the management and implementing agency responsible for running the calls for proposals, under an agreement signed with the Commission.
European Defence Research Programme (EDRP)
The PA is aimed at testing the feasibility of EU-funded collaborative defence research and is intended as preparation for a follow-on fully fledged defence research programme during the next MFF (likely covering 2021-2027). To be efficient and useful, the future European Defence Research Programme (EDRP) will need to be based on a robust defence planning process that identifies key capability needs. This exercise is currently underway through the EDA’s revision of the Capability Development Plan, which will be fully updated before April next year.
The Commission is expected to present its proposal for a regulation establishing the EDRP during 2018 and has proposed a budget of € 500 M per year. This amount will have to be negotiated among other categories of expenditures for the EU budget for 2021-2027, whose level is uncertain given the current geopolitical context.
Synergy between initiatives
ASD welcomes the proposal for a European Defence Fund, which is the key initiative at EU level aimed at boosting European cooperative defence programmes. But its success will also depend on a well-coordinated articulation with the definition of capability priorities (through the Capabilities Development Plan), with a coordinated defence planning (through the Annual Defence Review - CARD) and with political and financial commitments for cooperation (mainly through PESCO).