witneyThe European Defence Agency (EDA) sees its short-term future as being a forum for Europe’s defence ministries to discuss research co-operation, rather than as a common procurement body as intended, admits chief executive Nick Witney. Speaking exclusively to Flight International before the release of the agency’s year-end review, Witney says the EDA is “intended to catalyse collaborations” between the 24 European Union countries (excluding Denmark) that established the EDA in July 2004.

The EDA’s aims are to reduce fragmentation among European defence ministries by eliminating duplication, but at the time of launch many saw its future role as becoming a European procurement body. Witney says the immediate value of the agency can be realised through research and technology programmes and by providing a structured talking shop for members to discuss requirements and identify synergies.

“The great thing is we’re here day-in, day-out; we’re a motor to keep relationships moving,” he says. “The area where it is easiest to flex national investment is research and technology, because the lead time is shorter and money required smaller.”

The EDA will fund a series of software and niche initiatives from its 2006 budget of €4 million ($4.7 million), with an additional €1 million available if needed. Although there is no rejection of wider European collaboration on big projects, Witney says: “I’d be dead and buried if I said the next airframe will be 100% European.”

Witney describes this year’s agreement for members to adhere to a voluntary code of conduct to open defence markets to competition as an early “scalp nailed to the barn door”.

The European Commission last week presented an early draft of a plan to make the voluntary code of conduct binding in an effort to prise open the EU’s €82 billion arms market.


Source: Flight International