partner perspectives

Jul 26, 2017 | 12:19 GMT

12 mins read

Development Perspective for the European Defense Action Plan

The dynamic change underway in the security environments of many European states has given rise to an urgent need to establish a European tool for countering the consequences of their decreasing military and operational capabilities.
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By Antoni Pienkos for the Warsaw Institute for Strategic Initiatives

Over the period of the last 12 months, EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), and particularly Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) have seen unusually intensive activity. One of the most significant reasons for the increase interest in this field was the dynamically changing security environment for many of EU’s member states. The observations of the conflict in East Ukraine, the experience gathered throughout the Arab Spring, most notably during the operation in Libya, which exposed the inadequacity of European military capabilities, as well as the declarations made at the Warsaw NATO Summit have all provoked an urgent need to establish a strictly European tool to counter the negative effects of the decrease of military and operational capabilities of the member states. The alarming process is not an individual case and has affected practically all of EU’s members. Additionally, such factors as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump have put pressure on the member states to increase cooperation within the Union itself. In response to the challenges, the EU has adopted the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy and the Joint declaration by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Moreover, the European Defence Action Plan (EDAP) was initiated, along with the European Defence Fund (EDF). A part of this activities is also a plan to expand Preparatory Action in research and development into European Defence Research Programme (EDRP). The further enlargement of EDAP was one of the main issues discussed at the Council of Europe’s summit on June 22, 2017, where the European leaders agreed to launch the defence fund and PESCO initiative - Permanent Structured Cooperation[1].

The integration of Europe shows, having gone through worse and better times over the last 70 years, that subsequent moves in defence and security policy, although ambitious and with correct assumptions, did not end successfully. At times, the plans were later limited due to a lack of agreement between the member states[2]. The decisions made at the Council summit in June indicate a strong will to change the trend, but similar attempts already have been made and failed because of the differences between countries involved. That is why the main purpose of this text is not to say whether EDAP is an answer to declining military strength in Europe, but what conditions would have to be fulfilled to make it happen. Although the solution to the issue of CSDP extends beyond the reach and length of this article, hopefully it will serve as a spark that initiates further discussion on the topic.


In June 2016, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR/VP) published the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy[3]. The document, although devoted to foreign affairs and security, due to the procedure of its development and publication has limited influence. The difficulties arose because the Strategy was European Commission’s document, which later had to be adopted by the Council of the European Union. This only happened in November 2016, when the Council adopted conclusions related to CSDP. They were based on the introductory plan prepared by European External Action Service (EEAS). The negotiations involving this document revealed, once again, the disagreements between member states. The issues covered the costs, southern and eastern flank dispute, complementarity with NATO and different speed integration[4]. Regardless of the legal power and further conclusions of the Strategy, the publications undoubtedly revived the discussion on foreign and defence policy.

On 14 November, during a meeting of the Council of the EU on which the previously mentioned conclusions were adopted, the ministers of the member states called on the HR/VP to hold a European defence capability review in spring 2017, based on EEAS’ Level of Ambition document, specifying the catalogue of potential operations within CSDP, and obliging Mogherini to regularly prepare Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), first of which is scheduled to be published in spring 2018. The review will aid the defence coordination and capability acquirement, hence it will be a joint venture with EDA, which publishes Capability Development Plan every year[5]. What is most important, is that the Council also adopted a plan to publish EDAP and launch the European Defence Fund[6].

Simultaneously, last year’s discussions on the expansion of CSDP brought about questions of initiating PESCO procedure, the Permanent Structured Cooperation, included in article 46 of the EU treaty, and protocol 10 attached to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union[7]. The procedure allows to bypass the opposing states when pursuing wider cooperation (a qualified majority in votes is needed to initiate it), however, PESCO could also lead to a deeper division in the Union and lead to different speed integration. When PESCO is considered as a platform to execute EDAP, it is important to remember that after its launch the decisions on the direction of work and accepting new members will only depend on the participating countries, creating a real threat to build consistent European defence capabilities. On 15 December, 2016, the Council of Europe welcomed EDAP and the plans for EDF and recommended further work in this direction, but did not comment on PESCO, automatically adjourning the debate on this particular topic[8]. At the June summit of the Council of Europe the topic was brought back on and PESCO was given a ‘go’, assuring its nature will remain inclusive. Within the next three months a list of entry requirements will be prepared. Only then can the declarations be considered truthful[9]. The second validating factor will be the political decisions behind the form of PESCO in the future and the new members acceptance process.


On November 30, 2016 the European Commission, the main driving institution of CSDP, presented the project for EDAP with its three main pillars: creation of EDF, support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and strengthening of a single market of defence purchases[10]. This scheme was adopted due to the previous doubling of efforts and the drop in defence R&D spending[11]. Concerning the common market, the Commission plans to put more emphasis on respecting the 2009 defence directive, which aims to open the national markets and tighten control of exceptions from the rule, which is legally provided by article 346 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. In terms of SMEs support, the dual use R&D support was pointed out to be the most significant, as it allows parties to avoid the ban on defence funding by most of the funds and European institutions, at the same time allowing a synergy effect by including civilian suppliers into military contractors and vice versa. Additionally, there are plans to ask the European Investment Bank to recognise funding of military projects, which was highlighted in a conclusion of Council of Europe’s meeting on December 15, 2016[12].

The main element of EDAP is to launch EDF. The Council ordered the Commission to further investigate this subject and present the ways to provide capital to the fund in spring 2017. The initiative is meant to be composed by two windows: research and capability. The first one assumes a €90 mln package as a part of Preparatory Action until 2019, and, after 2020, €500 mln annually. The first of research pilot projects have been initiated by EDA, which devoted €1,4 mln with 2018 as the due date[13]. The second pillar aims to establish a unique fund - member states would channel some of their defence spending into the fund and then use it to pursue joint military procurements with other member states. The advantage of such system is the institutional protection for planning and execution of projects. The proposed scale of funding for the second pillar is €5 bln annually, but the commitment of the member states is voluntary, so the figure is rather a wish presented by Union’s officials, not the real willingness of the members. The work within the fund is supposed to be coordinated by the Coordinative Council, consisting of representatives from the Commission, HR/VP, member states, EDA and the defence industry. The perspective for development and introduction of EDF shows a plan with specific deadlines for the research pillar, but nothing precise for the capabilities window[14]. This confirms the observation that the R&D part is more promising in the context of military-industrial cooperation in Europe.


Cooperation within CSDP faces multiple obstacles hampering the development and application of its outcomes. The following three issues, observed along EDAP, are crucial to understanding the ingrained imperfections of the European cooperation in defence. The first one is the coordinative nature and voluntary participation, resulting from an intra-governmental character of CSDP, which can go even further when PESCO will be activated (its members will have a preference in the distribution of EDF funds)[15]. Such approach does not encourage involvement among member states, and the decision to invest is based only upon short-term economic or political interest. This leads to a situation where the only interested countries are those, where the biggest military industries and research institutions are located, which in no way limits the effect of doubling of defence efforts - one of EDAP’s main goals[16].

The two next issues are strictly linked with the first one. The first of those, the distribution of funds, has a derivative character in relation to the coordinative aspect and voluntary participation. The second one - a  tight understanding of national sovereignty - could be described as causes of the issue. In most of the initiatives pursued within the military-industrial cooperation in Europe, either as a part of EDA, or OCCAR, the attitude towards redistribution of funds is based on juste retour. It means that a participating country expects its share of the project’s production and research results to be proportionate to its investments, which does not stimulate less significant countries to participate in the endeavour[17]. This model is strictly different from the regional or infrastructural policy in the EU and is a consequence of political limits to one of EU’s member states most protected spheres - defence industry.

In Europe, the dominating approach to national sovereignty is understood as the ability to maintain the authority to make the final decision, and is particularly visible during CSDP talks. Meanwhile, this definition avoids the key aspect of the issue - the ability to guarantee safety to one’s citizens, which currently requires extensive international cooperation[18]. Unless the understanding of sovereignty changes, the cooperation within CSDP will not change from coordinative and voluntary to executive. The change would imply that the projects would be funded by the member states, but guided by EU institutions.


The issues identified within CSDP, along with the deteriorating security environment, the election of Donald Trump as president of the US and upcoming Brexit negotiations together suggest, that EDAP is unlikely to contribute to the reinforcement of European defence capabilities what is strongly advocated by the new administration in Washington, but is also even more frequently noticed by European capitals. The decisions made at the last European Council summit indicate further division of cooperation within CSDP, not a consolidation of action. The main supporters of the decisions were the strongest western European powers - France, Germany and Italy - and, most likely, they will benefit the most from the new provisions. The same issue may arise along European Defence Industrial Development Programme, proposed by the Commission on June 7. The cooperation within CSDP may as well become one of the new areas of different speed integration in Europe.

However, one could forecast that the solutions concerning research window, a part of EDF, and dual use projects will be successful. There is no sight of strengthening of the common defence market, still being undermined by the protectionism of member states. It is also hard to imagine that the members states would be willing to invest into EDAP, as similarly working systems already exist on EDA and OCCAR platforms, and are used on a very limited scale. Answering the question from the beginning of this text, a key element to reverse the negative trends with EDAP or similar initiatives is a change to the idea of national sovereignty and, in consequence, considering joint projects as an important part of defence policy, not just a supplement enforced by European regulations.

[1] EU leaders agree to start enhanced cooperation on defence, European Union External Action,, accesed April 29, 2017.

[2] A. Pieńkos, Europejska Agencja Obrony w systemie współpracy przemysłowo-obronnej w Europie, Toruń 2017, p. 129-132

[3] D. Fiott, European Defence: The Year Ahead, European Union Institute for Security Studies,, accessed April 29, 2017.

[4] A. Frontini, Another perfect storm for European defence – but can the Union really make strength?, European Policy Centre,, accessed April 29, 2017

[5] D. Fiott, op. cit.

[6] A. Frontini, op. cit.

[7] D. Fiott, op. cit.

[8] M. Terlikowski, Defence Policy in the European Union: Multi-Speed Security?, „Biuletyn PISM” 2016, number 74 (924).

[9] European Council conclusions on security and defence, 22/06/2017, European Council,, accessed  April 29, 2017.

[10] European Defence Action Plan: Towards a European Defence Fund,, accessed April 29, 2017.

[11] A. Pieńkos, The Dynamics of Military-Industrial Cooperation in Europe in the 21st Century, The Hub: International Perspectives, Stratfor,, accessed April 29, 2017.

[12] M. Moretti., Commission proposes EU Defence Fund as “crucial step” to boost defence industry,, accessed April 29, 2017.

[13] A. Rettman, EU to propose joint defence fund,, accessed April 29, 2017.

[14] Europejski plan działań w sektorze obrony,, accessed April 29, 2017, p. 6-13.

[15] J. Solana, S. Blockmans, EU defence plan is 'no game-changer',, accessed April 29, 2017.

[16] K. Wilewski, Trojański Europejski Fundusz Obronny,, accessed April 29, 2017.

[17] U. Beck, E. Grande, op. cit., 277-278.

[18] State of play of the implementation of EDA's pooling and sharing initiatives and its impact on the European defence industry,, accessed April 29, 2017, p. 30.


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