European Scrutiny Committee Contents

20 European Defence Agency



Head of the European Defence Agency's Report to the Council

Legal base
Date originated26 April 2010
Deposited in Parliament25 May 2010
Basis of considerationEM of 27 July 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see HC 5-iv (2009-10), chapter 3 (15 December 2009); (30175) —; (30176) 15442/08; and (30212) —: HC 19-ii (2008-09), chapter 10 (17 December 2009); also see (29701) HC 16-xxv (2007-08), chapter 15 (25 June 2008) ; and (28212) and (29268) HC16-xi (2007-08), chapter 1 and (29341-3) HC16-xi (2007-08), chapter 2 (6 February 2008)
Discussed in Council26 April 2010 Foreign Affairs Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


20.1 The European Defence Agency was established under 2004/551/CFSP on 12 July 2004, "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".


20.2 It has four functions, covering:

—  developing defence capabilities;

—  promoting Defence Research and Technology (R&T);

—  promoting armaments co-operation;

—  creating a competitive European Defence Equipment Market and strengthening the European Defence, Technological and Industrial Base.

20.3 According to its website, these functions all relate to improving Europe's defence performance, by promoting coherence: "a more integrated approach to capability development will contribute to better-defined future requirements on which collaborations — in armaments or R&T or the operational domain — can be built. More collaboration will, in turn, provide opportunities for industrial restructuring and progress towards the continental-scale demand and market, which industry needs."

20.4 On this basis, the Agency's tasks include:

—  to work for a more comprehensive and systematic approach to defining and meeting the capability needs of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP);

—  to promote European defence-relevant R&T, as vital both to a healthy defence technological and industrial base and to defining and satisfying future capability requirements. This will involve pursuing collaborative use of national defence R&T funds, in the context of a European Defence R&T Strategy which identifies priorities;

—  to promote European cooperation on defence equipment, both to contribute to defence capabilities and as a catalyst for further restructuring the European defence industry;

—  to work, in close cooperation with the Commission, on steps towards an internationally competitive market for defence equipment in Europe.

20.5 The EDA says that its "comparative advantage" should be "its ability to comprehend all these agendas, and relate them so as to realise their synergies. Its special position should allow it to develop uniquely cogent analyses and proposals across the range of its activities."


20.6 The EDA is an Agency of the European Union. The High Representative, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, is Head of the Agency and chairs its decision-making body, the Steering Board, which is composed of Defence Ministers of the 26 participating Member States (all EU Member States, except Denmark) and the European Commission. In addition, the Steering Board meets regularly at sub-ministerial levels, such as National Armaments Directors or Capability Directors.

20.7 The Steering Board acts under the Council's Authority and within the framework of guidelines issued by the Council, and meets twice yearly — in May and November.

20.8 Unanimity is required for decisions on role, goals and targets; QMV for internal operations.


20.9 The EDA's website explains:

"the Agency faces outwards. Its main 'shareholders' are the Member States participating in the Agency; key stakeholders include the Council and the Commission as well as third parties such as OCCAR (fr. Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d'ARmement),[84] LoI (Letter of Intent) and NATO. The Agency has a special relationship with Norway (through an 'Administrative Arrangement')."[85]

20.10 The Committee was fully engaged in the development of the EDA, culminating in a debate in June 2004 in European Scrutiny Committee B.[86] There, the then Secretary of State stated that its principal purpose would be to improve Member States' military capabilities.

20.11 Most recently, on 15 December 2009, the previous Committee considered three documents that were adopted by the Council, "in Minister of Defence composition", on 17 November 2009. They were well explained and commented upon by the then Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Ann Taylor) in three separate Explanatory Memoranda, the first of which contained what little information there was on the 2010 budget, and the second and third of which looked at future activity and what the Agency had concentrated on in 2009.

20.12 As the previous Committee's report notes, a recurrent feature of the Agency's history thus far had been a failure by the participating Member States to reach agreement on the level of growth in the financial framework, with the UK favouring annual budgets rather than a three year framework; while others continued to hanker after a more expansive approach, the then Government had pursued a pragmatic approach of broad, active engagement, participation in some projects but not all, maintaining budgetary discipline and encouraging the Agency to focus on where the then Government judged that the Agency could best add value.

20.13 The previous Committee again reported these developments to the House because of the widespread interest in the development of a European defence industry and strategy and in ESDP generally, and again drew it to the attention of the Defence Committee, as it is best placed over the longer term to assess the UK involvement.

20.14 They also noted that the kaleidoscope had been given a significant shake by the Lisbon Treaty, as a result of which the European Defence Agency — through the provisions on Common Security and Defence Policy in Articles 42 to 46 — had been formally incorporated into the EU Treaty; and that there were also changes to the way in which European Security and Defence Policy would be managed — not the least of which being that the EDA chair would now also chair the Foreign Affairs Council. This was why the previous Committee also judged that a further debate would be timely, to allow a more thorough examination of the way in which the then Government and interested members saw the EDA now developing. That debate took place in the European Committee on 1 March 2010, at the conclusion of which the Committee took note of an unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum dated 10 December 2009, Report by the Head of the European Defence Agency to the Council on activities in 2009, and European Union Documents No. 16275/09, European Defence Agency document on three year financial framework 2010-2012, postponement and 2010 Budget adoption and No. 16462/09, European Defence Agency Guidelines for the Agency's work in 2010; and supported "the Government's aim of ensuring that the EDA is used to deliver enhanced military capability across the EU".[87]

The Head of the Agency's Report

20.15 As before, this latest report describes progress on the Agency's main output areas and provides an overview of certain capability development programmes, including Helicopter Training, Third Party Logistic Support, the Pooling and Sharing of Capabilities; the European Framework Co-operation for defence research and technology; and the next steps for long term strategies relating to defence industrial base, such as the European Defence Equipment Market (EDEM), Code of Conduct on Defence Procurement (CoC) and components of the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB).

20.16 The report also notes that preparatory work by the Agency is underway to replace, later this year, the Council Joint Action of 2004 establishing the EDA with a new Council Decision on the Agency's statute, seat and operational rules in accordance with the provisions of the amended EU Treaty.

The Government's view

20.17 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 27 July 2010, the Minister for International Security Strategy at the Ministry of Defence (Gerald Howarth) says that:

"For the time being we will continue to participate in the European Defence Agency but, as part of the work on the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), we are reviewing all aspects of our defence engagement with international institutions, including the EDA, to ensure that it matches the UK's priorities and interests."


20.18 As before, we again report these developments to the House because of the widespread interest in the development of a European defence industry and strategy and in ESDP, and draw this chapter of our Report to the attention of the Defence Committee.

20.19 We look forward to scrutinising the Council Decision in due course. In the meantime, we clear the Head of Agency's Report.

84   The Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d'ARmement was established by an Administrative Arrangement on 12th November 1996 by the Defence Ministers of France, Germany, Italy and the UK. Its aim is to provide more effective and efficient arrangements for the management of certain existing and future collaborative armament programmes. The four founding Nations went on to sign a Treaty, the "OCCAR Convention", which came into force on the 28th January 2001. Belgium and Spain joined OCCAR in 2003 and 2005 respectively. The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Turkey are also participating in a programme, without being members of the organisation. For further information on OCCAR, see . Back

85   For full background on the EDA and its activities, see  Back

86   Stg Co Deb, European Standing Committee B, 22 June 2004, cols. 3-24. Back

87   See for the record of that debate. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2010
Prepared 26 October 2010