12 June 2019

In straight line for the European Defence Fund (We will soon find out who missed the trainings)

Niculae Iancu | Gheorghe Tibil

Image source: Mediafax

As we were anticipating in our previous articles on the European Defence Fund (EDF), the European Commission has adopted, at the beginning of this week, the Work Programme for the funding of common industrial projects, with a budget worth of 500 million for the 2019-2020 period.  Also, we must add the 25 million available of the 90 million amount dedicated for funding research projects in defence, the last of the three preparatory actions started in 2017. Hence, we could say that the “training” period is close to an end after the competitive access to the 525 million in the months to come. However, next is the great competition of accessing funds from the 13 billion the European Union has available for the integrated funding of new capabilities research and development dedicated to the future common European defence, across the following 2021-2017 European financial exercise.

At this point of competitors planning phase for the future EDF it is necessary for the Romanian entities from the defence industry and the specialized research to enter the scene, through quickly addressing the European consortiums that are currently being shaped or consolidated, to propose projects under the aegis of both programs that are now being developed- PADR and EDIDP. The concrete participation in this current phase is a necessary condition to have realistic expectations regarding the successful entry in the next phase, of the European Defence Fund, maturity and performance in developing, researching and producing the pioneer military technologies, to be launched after 2021.

The plan of the Juncker Commission towards the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) - from vision to fiction

The sequence of Juncker’s Commission historical premieres in European defence ends with adopting the work programme of the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), at the beginning of this week. Across the Political Guidelines for the European Commission, presented by Jean-Claude Juncker on 15th of July 2014, in front of the new elected European Parliament, one of the ten uppermost political fields the new European Commission was committing to address during his mandate was also foreign, security and defence policy, following the vision “a stronger global actors”.

Actually, “global” was the term that was going to represent the ambition level of the entire mandate of the effective Brussels executive for a Europe “stronger when it comes to security and defence matters”, a “non-coercive power”, but which “cannot make do in the long run without at least some integrated defence capacities”. The integration field in defence was opened by the Lisbon Treaty, which was foreseeing already the possibility for “those Member States who wish to pool their defence capabilities in the form of a permanent structured cooperation” and it was the moment to create “more synergies in defence procurement”.

Actually, “in EU more than 80% of investment in defence equipment” were made nationally when Juncker’s mandate has started. Consequently, “consolidating cooperation in public defence procurement” was becoming a priority, “even only for budgetary reasons”. The following events in common defence were going to prove that the “budgetary” dimension of integration was only an occasion to shape an European defence political dimension which was unexampled in European Union’s history. The current construction, as a whole, opens the perspective of creating a Union of defence, which together with the political and economic Union that has validated the entire European project for decades, is the last step before the full integration of people inside the common European values space in a union of democracy, liberty, prosperity, and common security interests.

The new EU ambition level in security was going to be assumed through adopting the “EU global strategy for foreign and security policy: “A safer Europe in a better world”, in June 2016. This strategy was emerging at the end of a year which has been evaluating the main challenges and changes of the international security environment, coordinated by Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and was starting from the necessity to review the 2003 European Security Strategy.

In November 2016, the chief of the European diplomacy has presented, in front of the Foreign Affairs Council, the European Defence Action Plan  for the implementation of Security Policy and Common Defence, dedicated to global strategy’s operationalization. It is being set up a series of proposals, which includes a coordinated annual review on defence costs (CARD), as well as a new permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) for the member states which want to voluntarily assume larger commitments for common defence and security. However, maybe the most important thing, the European Action Defence Plan includes the first description of the European Defence Plan (EDF), the new tool across the common defence package dedicated to funding specific research and development from EU budget, focusing on ensuring financial resources to support the research entities and the SMEs to have an integration potential in the common defence industrial architecture, as well as in the European defence unique market.

The research and development direction of the new defence capacities has continued to be shaped through the Capabilities Development Plan (CDP), which has celebrated, last year, two decades since its foundation and which has gained a “strategic significance” in the new common defence strategic context, becoming the “implementation benchmark of the major European initiatives launched based on the 2016  Global EU Strategy: CARD, PESCO and EDF”, as mentioned on the European Defence Agency website, the European institution responsible with the periodical review of the document.

The current architecture of the European Defence Fund has two components for projects management which receive European funding, the “research window” and the “capabilities window”. The research window was also launched in November 2016, as the Pilot Project for defence research, following the general logic of the validation mechanism of European programs conception dedicate to fund projects in all community interest fields. The pilot project for military research has included three projects and came after the launch of the Preparatory Action for Defence Research (PADR), in 2017. PADR has a total budget of €90 million, staggered to support three annual projects competition, wherefrom there were already allocated 65 million in 2017 and 2018.

Hence, the European Commission announcement made on Tuesday on the “opening” of the EDF capabilities window with a 500 million budget for 2019-2020, refers also to the concurrent launch of the last collaborative research projects competition in defence, with a 25 million budget left available inside the research window (PADR). Across the latter, there are targeted three concrete research fields: the domination of the electromagnetic spectrum, the future disruptive technologies in defence and the interoperability standards for unmanned military systems. We must remark that the proposals calls for the future disruptive technologies in defence will directly contribute to preparing the field for EDF, which would allocate up to 8% from the available budget for the disruptive technologies.

The European defence industry development or the successful end of Juncker’s Commission mission in common defence and security

The concept of organizing the EDF implementation management architecture will somehow change in the maturity period of the tool, which will start once with the future European financial framework in 2021. Currently, EDF is structured on two different components, capabilities development and research for defence, which do not have connections in between as restrictive conditions, like not being able to have developed a project across EDIDP before, except if that would be a continuation of a research across PADR. The future EDF will not be divided anymore in two parts, but will promote a unitary coordination and implementation structure, by which it will be encouraged the projects to propose advanced developments, up to validating and certifying prototypes and pass towards the series production, starting from early ideas. This includes also elaborating common operational demands by the member state for the future armament systems of a more homogenous European defence.

We expects for such an approach to lead not only to getting some significant results in new military capabilities development and research, but also to creating some integrated European research and industrial production chains in defence, with entities spread on the entire Europe and a series of SMEs and research centers surrounding the great economic actors across the specialized industry. Hereof, the massive fragmentation of the technique production and military technologies existend in Europe today would be significantly reduced, and the competitiveness level and the European innovation capacity in defence should grow at the level of the global competition’s great actors in the military domain, the United States, China and Russia.

This is the expectation level of the work programme of the European Defence Industry Development Programme, recently launched in Brussels. On this occasion, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the commissary for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs has underlined that protecting the EU citizens involves the need of “advanced defence technologies and equipment, like artificial intelligence, drones technology, satellite communications and intelligence systems”, insisting also that “concurrently with the EU investments that we are launching today we are also passing to concrete projects for the consolidation of our defence industries competitiveness.”

Concretely, the EDIDP Work Programme, recently adopted at the beginning of this week, it has the following directions and types of capabilities whose development are about to be financed in 2019 and 2020:

- Enabling operations, protection and mobility of military forces: €80 million are available for the development of unmanned terrestrial systems – 30,6 million for 2019; the development of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threat detection capacities – 13,5 million for 2020; the development combat systems of air drones – 13,5 million for 3030 for underwater control capabilities to support sea resilience – 22,5 million for 2020.

- Intelligence, secured communication & Cyber: with a 182 million allocation, given the serious risks against the cyber security and the need to develop the intelligence field, directly tied with the priorities agreed through CDP.

To that end, EDIDP is about to fund collaborative projects to develop capabilities like: cyber space defence, military systems, secured communication and exchange data – 17,7 million in 2019 and 14,3 million for 2020; space surveillance and early warning capacities – 22,5 million for 2020; positioning capabilities, navigation and satellite communication – 44,1 million for 2019; maritime surveillance capabilities  - 20 million for 2020 and command-control European capabilities, from the strategic level to the tactical one – 20 million for the current year.

- Ability to conduct high-end operations: €71 million will support the upgrade or the development of the next generation of ground-based precision strike capabilities – 6,5 million in 2019 and 7 million in 2020; ground combat capabilities – 9 million for 2020; air combat capabilities – 12 million for the current year and 22 million for the following year; development of future naval systems – 14, 5 million for the current year.

- Innovative defence technologies & SMEs- €27 million will support solutions in Artificial Intelligence, as well as SMEs involvement in developing innovative defence solutions. In this field, the approved programme involves funding the development of the following capabilities: simulation capabilities and tools and virtualization for training, testing exercises and validation – 3, 5 million for the current year; defence technologies development based on artificial intelligence – 5,7 million for 2020.

- Following the EDIDP Regulation to support the SMEs involvement in the projects to be financed, as essential element to ensure the economic increase, innovation, jobs and ensure the procurement chains, in addition to encouraging the trans-border involvement of SMEs through incentives for projects funding, the approved projects foresee the allocation of €17,5 million (7, 5 million for the current year and 10 for the next year) as special destination for the small and medium enterprises (SME), for them to develop some innovative defence solutions for the future.

In addition, two projects have been proposed for direct award: €100 million to support the development of the Eurodrone, a crucial capability for Europe's strategic autonomy, and €37 million to support ESSOR interoperable and secure military communications. 

As for their program, based on the competitions to be launched this month, the eligible consortia can apply for the 2019 calls of proposals until the end of the month August. Then, the Commission, with the support of the independent experts group, it will evaluate the received proposals, so that the first projects to be selected before the end of 2019, based on the examination and attribution procedure of programme’s Committee. Consequently is the official signing of grant agreements and the entry in contract’s effective phase. The process will be resumed in the first trimester of 2020, with the launch of calls for proposals for the next year.


Today, two months before the Euro parliamentary elections, we can surely say that the progresses in common defence of the effective executive of the European Union are unexampled. The implementation rate of the new global security and defence vision has surpassed all expectations, despite some inherent technical delays, which have emerged in some places, but were not that large to have a strategic impact. However, given the European administration which often proved to be working a bit slowly, especially in sensitive matters like foreign security and policy, and a European bureaucracy which is more and more complex, giving a “turnkey” European defence package to the following executive cannot be but honorable. Practically, ending the EDF projects funding cycle, whether across PADR or EDIDP, with the launch of the 2019-2020 competition, is a strategic movement of the current European Commission, which hinders possible blockages or delays which could have emerged during the transition period towards the following executive. Among these, the European Commission president, Jean- Claude Juncker marks the new European defence identity and makes the pathway towards the de facto establishment of the ”European sovereignty” – the valuable leitmotiv of his last speech regarding the state of the Union from September last year- become quasi-irreversible.

In other words, games have been made. The players – the member states- were invited on the common defence field. The preselection phase has ended. We are waiting to see who will the bearers, because they will have an impact also on the resistance structure of the future Defence Union construction and, on long term, of the European Army, wherewith the European Union will participate in the great global powers competition in the decades to come. Most of them can be anticipated, starting from their participation across the common research projects and the defence industry of the current EDF. In order to make any conclusions, we must see where will Romania be placed at the end of the 2019-2020 EDIDP's competitions.