The creation of a European Defense Agency (EDA) was jumpstarted after receiving a 2 million euros allocation June 14, and being enshrined in the new European Union Constitution June 17. The agency’s mandate involves defense capabilities development, armaments cooperation, and research and technology.
EU officials hope the agency will help find ways to eliminate unnecessary defense spending due to duplication and incompatible equipment, which have decreased the EU’s defense capabilities, relative to the U.S. and other world powers. EU countries have combined defense budgets of €160 billion ($193 billion) and 1.6 million troops, but many lack capabilities such as rapid troop deployment, real-time battle information and precision-guided munitions. By comparison, the U.S. defense budget is currently in excess of $400 billion.
As part of a six-year endeavor to enhance EU defense capabilities, the EDA is expected to begin work within a few weeks, and is to include a staff of 25 by the end of the year. In 2005, the budget allocation is expected to grow to €25 million, and the staff to 80. The EU ministers anticipate the agency will “improv[e] Europe’s defense performance by promoting coherence in place of fragmentation.”
Initially, discord arose between France and Britain over their disparate visions for the agency. France, which sought independence for the agency from the U.S.-led NATO alliance, won out over Britain’s hope of enhancing defense capabilities while working closely with NATO. France withdrew from NATO military bodies in 1955 because of U.S. dominance in the organization. Last minute objections raised by Portugal, over a provision allowing militarily advanced countries, such as Germany, the U.K. and France, to set up arms projects open to others by invitation only, were resolved through wording changes.
However, the three largest European defense contractors criticized the allocation as too heavily focused on staffing the agency, with too little attention given to fulfilling the agency’s mission of research and development, particularly in the face of competitive pressure from U.S. counterparts.