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It is important to remember that there is a link between the EDA and the assets that NATO wants and achieves. We support the objectives and work of the EDA in its role managing the work to improve European defence capabilities, including the facilitation of more efficient defence procurement. Furthermore, we welcome the references to the agency in the treaty. The treaty states that:
That has already happened. In reality, those decisions were taken by joint action in July 2004, which established the agency. There is no appetite among member states to reopen these issues. In the second half of last year, the head of the EDA reviewed the applicability of the joint action with all member states, and there was consensus that the joint action was fit for purpose and no appetite for it to be changed. As the EU Select Committee impact assessment notes:
The provisions on the European Defence Agency and on crisis management missions are a codification of current practice and will therefore have little impact on the European Security and Defence Policy.
The agency three-year financial framework and guidelines for its work programme are agreed by the Council acting by unanimity. It sets the overall framework and size of the agency and ensures that the UK would have the ability to prevent a substantial increase in the size of the agency if it did not fit in with our policy. The money comes from member statesnothing new in that.
As far as money for capabilities is concerned, I will give an example of a France and UK initiative on helicoptersa prospect fund to upgrade European helicopters, with France providing pilot training for hostile conditions. The initiative is being developed through both NATO and the European Defence Agency, as part of the EU. It will make European money go further to provide key enablers.
Beneath the framework, which is set by unanimity, regular decisions are made at the steering board by QMV for rapid decision-making. If there were a decision of strategic importance to the UK that the agency proposed to make by QMV, the UK could use the clause in the joint action which would allow us to have the decision reverted to the Council, which, as I say, acts by unanimity.
I repeat that the agencys main purpose is to help develop EU military capabilities by facilitating joint capability projects between member states and, my goodness, Europe does need some more defence capabilities. Improved EU military capabilities will improve the effectiveness of the ESDP military operations.
Let me make it abundantly clear: the agency does not have any role in the decision to launch or in conducting those operations, and the reference to operational rules in the treaty is only referring to the rules by which the agency itself operates. For those reasons, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Astor, his criticism of the EDA is slightly dated. There was concern about it when it was first set up. I remember because I was involved to some small extent at the time. It has yet to prove itself fully, but I submit that it has made a good start. To abandon it now would be quite against the principle of establishing more and better European defence capabilities.
Lord Astor of Hever: The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, made some important points about the EU collectively purchasing equipment. I hear what he says, but I would have more confidence if our European allies spent what was really needed on defence. Until they are willing to spend real money, they will not have real
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Finally, I am grateful to the Minister for his assurances that the EDA will complement NATO. I remember well our spats across the Dispatch Box about the EDA. In the light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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