December 30, 2013
Credit: Sgt Pete Mobbs RAF Crown Copyright
Against a backdrop of increasingly severe budget pressures across Europe, hopes that sovereign governments would agree to jointly develop military equipment dimmed in December, when a defense summit in Brussels failed to produce specific actions on development of European unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and other cooperative programs.
During a two-day meeting of the European Council, 28 heads of state agreed to move forward, albeit slowly, on joint development of common roadmaps and requirements in key areas. In addition to a next-generation UAV, these include air-to-air refueling, satellite communications and new cyber- security projects.
However, while member states declined to make concrete commitments to jointly developing such capabilities beyond endorsing their general outline, the fact that all 28 EU governments agreed to discuss joint defense strategy is viewed as a sign of progress.
During the summit, which marks the European Council's first defense meeting in five years, member states agreed to a “strategic reassessment” in mid-2015 to measure progress on all four defense-capability areas promoted by the European Defense Agency (EDA) as ripe for collaboration.
“These are projects on which we can work now,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy said in remarks following the meeting.
On the subject of UAVs, member states have already endorsed development of a common staff target for a European medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) system, though government resources have not been committed to it.
“For now, the one thing that's been done is development of the military requirement, and the next thing is development of the technical description of what the system should be like,” an aide to the European Commission—the check-writing arm of the EU—said in an interview Dec. 19.