The Agency is the European hub for collaborative capability development
“We need to stay on course and continue the implementation of the new EU defence tools that have been created since 2016.”
Interview with Jiří Šedivý, CEO of the European Defence Agency, Brussels
The European: Mr Šedivý, you have been the Chief Executive Officer of the European Defence Agency (EDA) since May 2020 and started your mission in the midst of the corona pandemic. How have you managed to exercise your leadership in this situation?
Jiří Šedivý: It is true that the general conditions in which I took over as EDA Chief Executive in spring 2020 were – and still are – very difficult due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, my prime objective has been to ensure business continuity and to keep on course the good work that has been done in recent years to enhance defence cooperation in Europe. However disruptive this pandemic is, the need will not go away for our Member States to improve Europe’s defence capabilities, and to do so through cooperation. This crisis, and more generally the emergence of completely new types of hybrid threats, make this need all the more urgent. Therefore, we need to stay on course and continue the implementation of the new EU defence tools that have been created since 2016 to boost the development of collaborative defence capability in Europe.
The European: May we have a brief review of what the EDA has achieved up to 2020, relative to the Union’s level of ambition set out in 2016?
Jiří Šedivý: EDA has become a key player in the new EU defence framework created since the publication of the revised EU Global Strategy in 2016. In concrete terms, this means that we play a role in each of the new instruments for European Defence.
Firstly, we are the architect of the Capability Development Plan (CDP) which is periodically reviewed to list the European defence capability development priorities (currently 11), approved by Member States.
Secondly, we are the driving force and penholder for the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), collecting data and information from Member States on their national defence development and spending plans in order to make a realistic assessment of the current European defence landscape and identify opportunities for future cooperation.
Finally, we play a central role in the precursor programmes of the European Defence Fund (EDF), notably the Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR), which we managed for the European Commission, and the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP). EDA has to ensure that these four tools are used in a coherent and complementary way.
The European: These tools were already up and running before the Covid-19 crisis hit. What needs to be done now?
Jiří Šedivý: Member States need to stick to their political and legal commitments and actually use these new EU instruments. The first objective is to ensure their full integration into Member States’ national defence policies and planning processes.
A second objective that I set myself was to mitigate, within the Agency’s remits of course, the potential budgetary impact of the Covid crisis on defence cooperation and send out a clear message: more cooperation, more pooling and sharing of knowledge, resources and capabilities among our Member States is the best response to the threat of shrinking defence budgets.
The European: The Covid-19 pandemic is thus “offering” an unexpected and unique opportunity to reinvigorate cooperation and use the new EU defence tools to the maximum…
Jiří Šedivý: …you are right. Joint capability planning and development at EU level is more efficient and cost-effective than having each Ministry of Defence doing its own thing in isolation. This is the most logical and efficient way for Member States’ to safeguard and even increase their defence capabilities, by pulling together and planning, developing and operating their defence capabilities together.
The European: In working towards the 2016 revised EU Global Strategy’s (EUGS) objectives of enhancing defence cooperation, has the EDA obtained the full support of Member States?
Jiří Šedivý: Absolutely. Member States agreed, in 2017, to reinforce EDA’s mission and to make it the priority instrument to support collaborative capability development in Europe. EDA is the preferred forum for the development of collaborative defence technology and capabilities. The agency is acting as the interface for EU policies with impact on defence and is the central operator for EU funded defence activities.
The European: I would like to come back to the European Defence Fund that you mentioned. What are the strands of this instrument which is a novelty insofar as this is the first time that EU funding has been earmarked for defence in the Union’s multiannual budgetary framework?
Jiří Šedivý: The EDF is a fund, proposed by the EU Commission and financed through the EU budget, to support cross-border cooperation between EU countries and enterprises, research centres, national administrations, international organisations and universities. The fund has two strands: the first is related to defence research that will provide funding for collaborative defence research projects, the second is related to the development of defence products and technologies, under which the EU will create incentives for Member States and companies to collaborate on the joint development of defence products and technologies through co-financing from the EU budget.
The European: But is there enough money to achieve all these objectives, especially with the recent downsizing to €7 bn from the €13 bn that the Commission proposed in 2018?
Jiří Šedivý: If you are asking me whether the budgetary allocation agreed at the European Council Summit of July 2020 is sufficient, my answer is that nobody can tell in advance how the EDF will be used and if the money available will be sufficient. We’ll see. But I expect the fund to serve as a genuine incentive for more European industrial cooperation on defence.
The European: After a test run in 2018, the first full CARD cycle was launched in September 2019. Over a period of 10 months, EDA collected and analysed information from individual Member States on their respective national defence plans, in order to identify current trends and future cooperation opportunities. Was this a highlight for you in 2020?
Jiří Šedivý: The rationale behind the CARD is that regular reviews every two years will lead, over time, to more synergies and increased coherence between Member States´ defence planning, spending and capability development, through targeted cooperation. In terms of the results so far, CARD’s assessment of the current picture is unequivocal: Europe’s defence landscape remains fragmented and lacks coherence in several aspects! Also, collaborative defence spending remains well below agreed collective benchmarks. This includes military capability development, Research and Technology (R&T) efforts, defence industry support and operational aspects. The report concludes that continuous efforts will be needed over a long period in defence spending, planning and cooperation to overcome costly fragmentation and benefit from synergies and enhanced military interoperability.
The European: So, will the CARD bring about a change of mindset in national defence planning?
Jiří Šedivý: Yes, the CARD is there to help Member States get such multinational projects up and running! The first report identifies a total of 55 collaborative opportunities throughout the whole capability spectrum, and Member States are recommended to concentrate their efforts on six specific “focus areas” ranging from Main Battle Tanks (MBT) and Soldier Systems to Patrol Class Surface Ships, Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems, Defence Applications in Space and Military Mobility.
The European: And what about in Research & Technology?
Jiří Šedivý: 56 options to cooperate in R&T have been identified, ranging from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cyber defence, to new sensor technologies, emerging materials and energy efficient propulsion systems as well as unmanned systems and robotics. So, in a nutshell, CARD has identified plenty of opportunities for cooperation. Now it is up to Member States to take them up!
The European: Mr. Šedivý, what is your feeling about the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) which is outside your remit?
Jiří Šedivý: PESCO is indeed a Member States driven initiative. I expect more projects to be added in the future to the existing 47 projects launched since December 2017 when PESCO was established. I think PESCO will grow further and be an essential tool to boost defence cooperation.
The European: Is your Agency involved in PESCO projects?
Jiří Šedivý: As the Agency is the European hub for collaborative capability development, it has the necessary experience and expertise for such work. We therefore encourage Member States to make full use of our know-how and support in driving their PESCO projects forward. Five PESCO projects are currently receiving dedicated EDA support, three of which were already being implemented as Agency projects. And 14 PESCO projects out of the 47 launched so far are benefiting in one form or another from Agency support.
The European: In the strategic domains such as maritime security, cyber and space, resilience is missing. What is being done by the Agency in these areas? Let’s take the example of maritime security first.
Jiří Šedivý: EDA is indeed very active in these domains which are all mentioned in the 11 common European Capability Development Priorities.
As regards maritime security and surveillance, EDA’s longstanding MARSUR network project, which involves all coastal EDA Member States plus the European Union Satellite Centre (EU SatCen), entered a new phase in November 2020 when the Agency launched its third phase, focused on the development of a next generation system. MARSUR III will enhance the system’s interoperability with other maritime security regimes and investigate options for the exchange of classified information within the network.
The European: And in the space sector?
Jiří Šedivý: We are working on the “Governmental Satellite Communication Pooling & Sharing Demonstration” project which supports the 17 contributing Member States as well as the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations by providing reliable, secure and cost-effective access to governmental satellite system capacities and services through available pooled resources. The Agency’s REACT (Radar imagERY application supporting ACTionable Intelligence) project, improving geo-information and satellite imagery analysis, delivered its prototype capability, installed in premises in France, Italy, Poland and Spain and at the EU SatCen. Another initiative to exploit Artificial Intelligence tools in imagery intelligence was launched in cooperation with the EU SatCen.
The European: Let’s conclude with EDA’s work in cyber security, which is recognised as the fifth domain of warfare, equally critical to military operations as land, sea, air, and space.
Jiří Šedivý: EDA supports Member States in developing their capabilities to improve cyber resilience. The agency is running a number of projects and programmes to support the creation of a risk management model for cybersecurity in the supply chain for military capabilities. Furthermore, we are defining requirements and business cases for the use of Artificial Intelligence in cyber exercises and we are also providing cyber defence education and organise joint cyber defence exercises.
The European: Finally, I would like to ask you for a brief assessment of EDA’s activities in disruptive technologies. Are you attributing importance to these technologies?
Jiří Šedivý: Artificial Intelligence and quantum technologies are the focus of our innovation and R&T efforts as they will revolutionise many different aspects of our societies and economies, including the defence sector. Future AI applications in defence are key objectives of our Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA).
At the end of 2020, EDA finalised its Artificial Intelligence in Defence Action Plan (AIDAP) identifying ways and means for Member States to collaborate on the development of AI for their militaries. AI-related projects have been launched in 2020, including on Communications and Radar systems hardened with Artificial Intelligence (CRAI) in a contested electronic warfare environment, AUtonomous DROne Services (AUDROS) and ATENA (Artificial intelligence for TErrainrelative NAvigation in unknown environments). This topic will keep us busy in the years to come!
The European: Mr Šedivý, I thank you for this interview and wish you every success.
“EDA is the preferred forum for the development of collaborative defence technology and capabilities.”
The interview was conducted by Hartmut Bühl
Jiří Šedivý has been the Chief Executive Officer of the EDA since May 2020. He earned his PhD in Political Science at Prague’s Charles University and his MA in War Studies at King’s College London. From 1998 to 2004, he was the Director of the Institute of International Relations in Prague, and the external advisor of President Václav Havel. Mr Šedivý became Defence Minister in 2006 and Deputy Minister for European Affairs in 2007. He served as NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy (2007-2010) and was Czech’s Permanent Representative to NATO (2012-2019). From 2016 to 2018, he was the President of the Berlin Security Conference (BSC).
EDA’s ambitions in fighting climate change
The European Defence Agency is the “military voice” in EU climate and energy-related polices, acting at three different levels:
- The Agency has been tasked to manage the Consultation Forum on Sustainable Energy in the Defence and Security Sector (CF SEDSS), initiated by the Commission and enabling Member States’ experts from the defence and energy sectors to share best practices and expertise. Topics that are addressed include energy efficiency and the use of renewables by the Armed Forces.
- Building on its previous Military Green initiative, EDA set up an “Energy and Environment Working Group” in 2014 to support Member States in their collective efforts to increase the resilience of their Armed Forces and defence industries towards rising threats related to energy security and dependence on fossil fuels, resources security of supply, water security, and climate change.
- The Agency is contributing to the Green Deal Initiative by launching in 2021 an Incubation Forum on Circular Economy in European Defence (IF CEED) co-funded by the Commission, with a view to allowing the defence sector to further contribute to the Green Deal.
Transport of an Additive Manufacturing (AM) Factory in the frame of an EDA project designed to explore the potential of 3-D pinting for enhancing defence capabilities