Please note that this does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.
On October 13 2014, the European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) held an exchange of views with Denis Roger of the EDA and Slawomir Tokarski from the Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry on the funding and content of future Common Security and Defence Policy-related research.
Denis Roger, Director of European Synergies and Innovation, a fairly new unit within the European Defence Agency (EDA), began by recalling the close cooperation between the EDA and SEDE committee. He said he understood the subcommittee had wanted more out of the Defence Council in December 2013, but reminded the MEPs that it had at least returned defence to the agenda.
Defence, he continued, is both strategic and economic. He argued it was important that heads of state and government understand the impact of dual-use research.
He explained the EDA engaged in two categories of research:
- Research supporting EU external action but having wider society benefits, falling under the Horizon 2020 objectives for example, and;
- “Full-fledged” defence.
He maintained that each of these categories had an innovation component, based on a strategic innovation agenda and the Capability Development Plan, through which the needs of Member States armed forces are identified and met. What the EDA needs, he said, is a new programme tool that would allow the agency to conduct relevant research-one that would prioritise research areas. A new tool, not one within Horizon 2020. He argued such a tool would contribute to both innovation and defence. He acknowledged that synergies among stakeholders and between industry and Member States would need to be identified and exploited to ensure added value, but contended that done effectively it would allow Europe to rise to the external defence challenges facing the Member States. He wished to add that it would be these multi-use technologies developed by such efforts that would contribute the most added value and that he saw no priority in the Capability Development Plan more important.
He explained that industry would be an important component of these research areas going forward. It was no coincidence, he added, that the proposal for the preparatory action was included in the chapter on industry in the December 2013 Council conclusions.
To be successful, he said all stakeholders must be involved: Member States, who hold operational responsibility; the Commission, which he said was set to make proposals for the Preparatory Action by 2016, and the EDA, which he said had long-standing experience in this area. However, including all stakeholders would not be effective without a bigger budget, he warned. He recalled that High Representative-designate Federica Mogherini had declared that she would use the EDA to the furthest extent possible, saying that he saw this as an opportunity to do develop the agency’s role.
Turning to the role of and relationship with the Parliament, he said he felt he was preaching to the choir. He thanked the subcommittee for its support. He explained that the EDA would be testing new mechanisms and modalities, including co-financing and the use of both community and intergovernmental funds, which he argued would ensure the most efficient use of taxpayer money. As a taxpayer, he continued, he would want to avoid duplication and maximise the development of dual-use technologies. Continuing with the exercise, he said he would want a pragmatic approach, one that provided the maximum return for every euro invested.
He explained the Preparatory Action itself was not the objective, but one step in a longer process to “set up a programme tool that will cover all research aspects of CSDP”. For this reason, he said, the Preparatory Action must render tangible results in the short term to show what can be done in the long term. Furthermore, he said industry must be made to feel its actors, from all over the EU, are real stakeholders. Method, he explained, would therefore be as important as content.
Turning to modalities, he said careful attention would need to be given intellectual property and financing mechanisms. Regarding the latter, he suggested that funding through both EU and Member State sources be explored. He stated that he would be organising a seminar with the Commission on November 21 2014 in which these topics would be discussed.
Concluding, he argued the EU must be more pragmatic and move beyond institutional debates that add nothing to the fulfilment of the mandate given by the Council in December. He acknowledged that developing defence capabilities through the CSDP should not be done to the detriment of other policy areas and, more importantly, to the detriment of European values. He therefore looked forward to cooperating with the Parliament to move forward in the most constructive way possible.
Slawomir Tokarski, Head of Unit, G.5 Defence, maritime and aeronautic industries, DG Enterprise and Industry, noted much of what he needed to say had been said by Mr Roger, so he would only add a few comments. Why, he posed, had the Commission put the Preparatory Action and finding synergies between defence and civil research on the table. He explained the move was in part a consequence of Europe’s economic and financial crisis, which put pressure on Member State budgets and, therefore, defence capabilities. There was also concern, he said, about maintaining the European defence industry’s capacity to deliver those capabilities.
He explained that the Commission therefore included two proposals in its communication for the December 2013 Council meeting, which he recalled were ultimately supported by both the Council and Parliament.
He added a comment on what he called “dual-use synergies”. Most civil and defence technological research come from the same base, he argued, of up to 60 or 70%. He acknowledged that Horizon 2020 only funded civilian projects, but explained that the Commission could bring a number of dual-use projects to the attention of industry, which could, after contributing to 2020 objectives, continue the research outside the remit of the original programme. Specifically, he said the Commission and EDA were focusing on dual-use key enabling technologies (KETs). He reported that a working group for these technologies had been set up and that their recommendations would be incorporated into the implementation of the Preparatory Action.
He also informed the subcommittee that the Commission had also just recently published a handbook for SMEs explaining how research and development projects can receive funding from the EU through different instruments (such as Structural Funds) and how to fund synergies between them. The objective, he said, was to mainstream the idea of dual-use technologies.
Turning to the Preparatory Action, he explained that it alone would not be a “game changer”, due to the likely limited resources that would be available. Instead, the most valuable contribution it would make would be in convincing the Council to include funding for CSDP research in the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). For this reason, he noted that the modalities and methods of the Preparatory Action would need to be carefully planned.
He said it would also be important to stress the value added by CSDP research at EU level, which he highlighted as:
- The stimulation of a critical mass of research in some areas that would otherwise not necessarily be reached
- Direct focus on CSDP needs and capabilities
- The possibility of having a “capability enhancer” to bridge disparate capabilities throughout the Member States, such as maritime security, in the future.
He explained that the next step would be to bring together all stakeholders to determine the content of the Preparatory Action. He stated that he hoped to have this phase ready for review by 2015, so a budget could be prepared by 2016 and the action implemented by 2017 instead of 2018, giving the Council more time to evaluate the benefits.
SEDE chair Anna Elżbieta Fotyga (EPP, PL) asked the panellists how dual-use projects funded by Structural Funds incorporated the principle of cohesion. She argued the cohesion component would be very important, considering the disparities between Member States. She also wished to know whether third countries and actors would be eligible to participate in CSDP-related activities funded by Structural Funds and if so, how this cooperation would be structured.
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