Development of European Armed Forces

European Defence Agency

European Defence Agency (Agency, EDA), created on 12 July 2004, aims to facilitate coordination of military capability development plans among EU member states through pooling of resources and less fragmentation in production of military equipment. Agency was officially established on 1 January 2005.

EDA is the only EU institution responsible for development of EU’s military capabilities across all areas:

  • identification of long-term military capability needs
  • development and delivery of new technologies according to identified needs
  • enabling of joint arms procurements
  • development of defence industry rules and regulations

EDA’s main tasks are:

  • to support member states in developing national defence capabilities
  • to coordinate joint arms procurement projects across Europe
  • to strengthen Europe’s technological and industrial infrastructure and contribute to competition-driven common European defence industry
  • to promote the efficiency of Europe’s defence research and technologies

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy, is the Head of the European Defence Agency. Head of EDA is responsible for the overall administration and work of EDA, and implementation of decisions adopted by EDA’s Steering Board.

Agency’s Steering Board is its main decision-making body. It operates in accordance with Council’s guidelines and mandate, overseeing Agency’s work and adopting decisions on EDA’s strategic initiatives. Steering Board is composed of 26 defence ministers from all EU member states (except Denmark) and a (non-voting) representative of the European Commission.

In addition to ministerial meetings, the Steering Board also meets at the level of National Armaments Directors, Research & Technology Directors and Capability Directors. Member states are represented at these meetings by defence officials responsible for respective areas (usually deputy state secretaries of defence ministries).

Agency’s tasks are performed by four main units or operational directorates: Industry, Synergies and Enablers Directorate (ISE), Capability, Armament & Planning Directorate (CAP), Research, Technology & Innovation Directorate (RTI), Corporate Services Directorate (CSD). Directorates also coordinate thematic working groups of national experts where industry issues are discussed at greater detail from various member state perspectives.

Structure of the European Defence Agency

Latvia joined the Agency on 21 June 2004 based on the decision of Cabinet of Ministers. To contribute to Agency’s performance as efficiently as possible, Ministry of Defence nominated its representatives to the Steering Board and national Points of Contacts (POCs), such as Capability, Research and Technology Industry and Armament. Defence Ministry also appoints a permanent military representative for European Defence Agency who coordinates communication with Agency from Brussels.

Latvia has contributed to the development of a number of EDA’s initiatives. Latvia supported the European defence capability development Long-Term Vision. Vision that defines the main strands of EU defence capability development for the next 20-25 years and shows commitment to align member state military capability development processes with US and NATO capability development agenda. In addition, EU also prioritises development of coordinated military and civilian crisis/conflict management mechanism. Vision paved the way for further EDA and member state cooperation on EU defence capability development in the following three areas:

  • adoption of Capability Development Plan
  • development of EU’s Defence Technological and Industrial Base
  • adoption of European Defence Research and Technology Strategy

Development of EU member state defence capabilities is closely intertwined with EU single market policy. With the establishment of the Agency, member states and European Commission have turned to development of military equipment market to make it more open and competitive. Latvia welcomes and prioritises EU defence market development initiatives aimed at facilitating full market access for small and medium size enterprises – EU companies manufacturing or supplying civilian and dual-use goods.

Agency produced its first Capability Development Plan (CDP) in 2008. It strives to address long-term security and defence challenges. Plan identifies future security scenarios and provides recommendations on capabilities that need to be developed by Europe’s military units to be able to respond to various incidents. Capability Development Plan is based on comprehensive planning that provides a 360-degree view of Europe’s defence capabilities. Member state defence policymakers may use CDP to identify national priorities and potential partnerships.

CDP goals:

  • Provida picture of European military capabilities over time
  • Help Member States’ defence planners identify priorities and opportunities for cooperation
  • Look at the long-term trends affecting European Defence
  • Identify list of priority actions detailed enough to direct work on capability development

The purpose of the periodic CDP revision is to provide a full capability picture that supports decision-making at EU and national levels regarding defence capability development. Latest version of CDP was approved in June 2018. It is of particular strategic significance as it serves as a reference for the implementation of major European defence initiatives launched following the 2016 EU Global Strategy: the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), and the European Defence Fund (EDF).

Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD)

CARD was launched in 2017 as part of the of the implementation EU Global Strategy and also serves as an important tool in taking forward the EU Strategic Compass.

Ministries of Defence have traditionally done defence planning and procurement in isolation without significant coordination amongst themselves. Over time, EU member states decided to build closer coordination of national defence plans and procurements among member states. CARD, which is produced by the Agency in close collaboration with EUMS, was a step towards closer coordination.

The main CARD deliverables are two documents:

The CARD Aggregated Analysis, which provides an overview on main trends, analyses collaborative opportunities on defence capability development and includes Member States’ views expressed during the CARD bilateral dialogues with EDA and the EUMS. It also includes the analysis of the operational landscape and CSDP shortfalls. It aims at informing decision-making processes at both national and EU level.

The CARD Report , which provides key political messages derived from the CARD Aggregated Analysis, actionable recommendations, and options to generate collaborative projects, to cope with the challenges highlighted by the CARD process.

In 2019-2020, the first CARD cycle took place. The final CARD report was presented to Defence Ministers in November 2020. It identified collaborative opportunities for Capability Development and Research & Technology throughout the whole capability spectrum, considered to be the most promising, most needed, or most pressing ones, also in terms of operational value. Based on this catalogue of identified opportunities, the report recommended that the Member States concentrate their efforts on the six specific ‘focus areas’.

The second CARD cycle was launched in December 2021. CARD Aggregated Analysis and subsequently, the CARD Report, including recommendations, were distributed in May and October 2022, respectively, after bilateral meetings between Member States and EDA and the EUMS. The final report was approved by Ministers of Defence on 15 November 2022. It finds that increases in defence spending following Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine represent both an opportunity and challenge for European defence. The 2022 CARD Report also shows that the announced additional funds may fill long-standing capability gaps.

EU battle groups

EU Battlegroup Concept was approved by the European Union Military Committee (EUMC) in July 2004. Concept envisaged creation of national or multinational military units and support elements ready to engage in military operations in less than 10 days. Each battlegroup is composed of 1,500 personnel. Battlegroups are the minimum size force capable of a stand-alone operation in combat area. From 1 January 2007, two Battlegroups are always on standby for a period of 6 months, ready to engage in EU’s military missions. Two new battlegroups replace the previous standby units every six months.

Latvia announced its participation in EU Battlegroups on 22 November 2004, during the first Military Capabilities Commitment Conference. On 23 May 2005, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia signed a Letter of Intent regarding cooperation within EU Battlegroups. Agreement on the political level was complemented by Memorandum of Understanding signed on 13 November 2006, laying down the main operating principles of EU Battlegroup composed of rapid reaction forces from Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland (lead nation) and Slovakia. Memorandum of Understanding established battlegroup’s key operating structures, command and control, supply, organisational, training and other priorities, making rapid response unit combat-ready for January1st – June 30th 2010 rotation.

66 National Armed Force troops joined battlegroup’s standby mission in first half of 2010, making this the first EU Battlegroup participation in the history of Latvian army. Latvia was represented in EU Battlegroup by improvised explosive device (IED) ordinance unit, Military Police section, command officers and national support element. Latvia has been a part of the UK-led EU Battlegroup standby rotation in the second half of 2013, and  Swedish EU Battlegroup in first half of 2015.

Decision to engage EU Battlegroup in a military assistance operation is based on European Council crisis management guidelines, giving up to 5 days for the authorisation. Once the green light is given Battlegroup must leave for the operating theatre in 10 days. Operations may last between 30 and 120 days. So far, European Council has not engaged Battlegroup in any missions.