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No easy ways for EU nations to prioritise their capability goals, say officials

Any effort to align the EU's two main defence capability development initiatives to support the same set of goals will be limited without strong top-down decisions by Europe's leaders, say EU officials. The issue is how to synchronise the capability priorities of the EU's new European Defence Fund (EDF) with future projects framed within the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) among national capitals.

With a budget of EUR8 billion (USD9.76 billion) for 2021โ€“27, the EDF is focused on research and development to support Europe's defence industrial sector, while the PESCO fosters intergovernmental capability development between the member states in the development and operational phases.

โ€œThe business case for the EDF is an economic one. It is only in the development phase where it and PESCO can overlap, meaning there are limits to the coherence [of their priorities] due precisely to the EDF's industrial objectives. It means there is no automaticity of the EDF's link to PESCO,โ€ Nynke Tigchelaar, deputy head of the European Commission's policy department that controls the EDF, said at a 20 May virtual conference on the EU's capability priorities hosted by the Armament Industry European Research Group (ARES) think-tank.

โ€œThere are provisions built into the EDF to ensure some coherence [with PESCO capability efforts] but its funding priorities have to be consistent with the needs of CSDP [ie, what is required for expeditionary missions of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy],โ€ she said.

Arnout Molenaar, head of security and defence policy in the European External Action Service, the EU's foreign policy wing, agreed and spoke about other policy gaps between the two initiatives.

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