The EU Foreign Affairs Council has agreed to launch the European Defence Agency later this year with an annual budget of 25 million euro.
Sir Peter Ricketts, UK's permanent representative to NATO, said
that it was overambitious and too soon to talk of a EU-US
industries pact: "The EDA is a badly needed focal point. But we
must first create more efficency in the European market, and then
later drive for a more effecient transatlantic defence market."
He also noted that the greater effeciency of the US defence
market is in part due to the fact that is 2.6 times bigger: "The EU
has a fragmented customer base with national constraints. This
creates incoherence of demand and thus incoherence of supply."
Alexander Nicoll, assistant Director of the International
Institute of Defence Studies, UK, said that a European defence
market instead of a several national ones will "create better
value". While the aim was not to avoid collaboration with the US,
the EDA could also give the EU a chance to "develop its own idea of
capabilities for itself."
Paulo Portas, Portugals Minister of Defence, noted that
"pragmatism and common sense has now replaced ideology". He also
predicted that small countries will now have to work harder on
their defence committments.
The European Defence Agency (EDA) received the final backing
of the Foreign Affairs Council on 17 May, 2004 after its
establishment had been orginally agreed in November 2003. It will
work in the field of defence capabilities development, research,
acquisition and armaments. The overall idea of the EDA will be to
promote coherence in place of fragmentation in European defence
procurement. The creation of the EDA is expected to be a central
component in the further development of a true European foreign and
defence policy. The budget for this year is set at 2.5 million
euro. The future annual budget is expected to be 25 million euro,
including ten million euro in set-up costs.
Prior to the June European summit, a joint action, a legal
basis to establish the EDA, should be adopted. The EDA will be
situated in Brussel, but its permanent place may be somewhere else.
It will have an immideate staff of 25 personnel that is expected to
grow to 80.