EDA Annual Conference: “Sustaining European Defence”

By Paolo Valpolini

The annual European Defence Agency (EDA) Conference took place on December 3-4. this year in a virtual form, as many other similar events. Created in 2004, the EDA aims at promoting and facilitating integration between member states within the European Union (EU) Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). In 2020 the pandemic added a further element to EU members concerns, as not many countries – better saying none – were ready to face such a worldwide crisis. Improving security and defence in Europe remaining the aim of the EU at large as well as of the EDA, the mission scope is widening, as domains which have an impact on the military but that also affect the civilian world, such as cyberthreats, are more and more real, not to say about the health threat represented by COVID-19, which might only be an example of more to come. Bringing 27 countries to converge is relatively difficult when we stick to theory and wording, but it becomes even more difficult when shifting to actions especially if these entail costs, in the defence case systems development and acquisition or missions. That said, 2020-21 should see some steps forward as the EU External Action Service and the EDA have or will present documents that should provide common views on current gaps, ways to fill them, and even more critically, the threats that face and will face the EU in the near-mid future.

The acronym EDR meaning ‘European Defence Review’, due to that ‘European’ we felt compelled to try providing our readers the widest possible coverage of this event, which definitely represents for many people the chance to get an update on what is happening at EU level in terms of security and defence issues. The Conference was opened by Jiří Šedivý, the European Defence Agency (EDA) Chief Executive, who was followed in the two-day event by many other first-tier speakers, discussion panels allowing to get deeper into the Conference subject,  “Sustaining European Defence”. While Day 1 was more devoted to technical issues, Day 2 saw a  more political approach. Inevitably both days saw the word ‘pandemic’ pronounced by many speakers, this having shown weaknesses in many organisations and having generated lessons that EU Member States as well as the EU as an entity will have to learn, analyse and use this to improve the system resilience, something that does not impacts only the civil and medical world, but also that of security and defence. Another keyword was ‘cooperation’, not only among Member States but also between the EU and partners, such as NATO, the UN, etc, main subjects been the recently published.

Clicking on the following links you will find summaries of most speeches and panels of the Conference. Some more will follow soon. Enjoy the reading

DAY 1

WELCOME ADDRESS – Jiří Šedivý, Chief Executive, European Defence Agency

PRESIDENCY STATEMENT – Benedikt Zimmer, State Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Germany

THE MILITARY VIEWPOINT – General Claudio Graziano, Chairman, EU Military Committee

DELIVERING ON MILITARY EFFECTIVENESS: FROM PRIORITIES TO IMPLEMENTATION

DEFENCE INNOVATION PRIZE – Presented by Olli Ruutu, Deputy Chief Executive, European Defence Agency

Day 2

OPENING SPEECH – Josep Borrell Fontelles, Head of the EDA, High Representative and Vice-President of the European Commission

KEYNOTE SPEECH – Mircea Geoană, Deputy Secretary General, NATO

KEYNOTE SPEECH – Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, European Commissio