The European Defence Agency and EU military space policy: Whose space odyssey?

by Iraklis Oikonomou
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The European Defence Agency and EU military space policy:

Whose space odyssey?

by Iraklis Oikonomou

Published in (2012), Space Policy, 28, pp. 102-109.

I. Introduction

Given the material and ideational magnitude of EU space-related projects such as Galileo and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), it is probably a commonplace to suggest that space-related activities have strengthened both the capacity of the Union to act as a Union, and the public visibility and recognition of it. In fact, the question of the relationship between space policy and European identity has been explicitly addressed at conferences and publications.[i] Yet, despite the increasing awareness of the interrelatedness between space, military policy and the EU, there is a relative absence of the European Defence Agency (EDA) from the academic debates surrounding EU space policy. This is indeed surprising. Apart from becoming a hub for the management of armaments issues at the EU level, next to the European Commission’s involvement in defence equipment market, security research and aerospace, EDA has been increasingly fuelling attempts to develop and consolidate EU military-related space capabilities. Such initiatives include the Multinational Space-based Imaging System (MUSIS) and the European Satellite Communications Procurement Cell (ESCPC), as well as projects geared towards the development of critical space technologies.

What is exactly taking place at the crossroads of EDA and EU military space policy? How can EDA’s involvement be interpreted? What are the key sources and actors in the making of EDA space agenda? And how can this agenda and involvement be theorised? This paper starts by providing a general account of the making and function of the Agency as an armaments policy institution. It then presents in detail the role of EDA in EU space affairs, documenting its increasing elevation to an EU space policy actor. Next, it delineates the multiplicity of synergetic relations developed between the Agency and other space-related institutions at the EU level. The case for understanding EDA as a response to socio-economic rather than purely strategic considerations is presented in the next section, which dissects the connection between the industry and the Agency and demonstrates the continuity and depth of this pattern of synergy. Finally, a concluding section sums up the main findings of the study.

The argument here is the following: Every institution has a social purpose, i.e. a set of ‘deep’, long-term goals and functions that need to be fulfilled, and an institutional form, i.e. a set of specific institutional arrangements through which it is run. In EU military space policy integration, the unity of institutional purpose is more significant than the potential differentiation in the institutional form of EU actors. In order to understand the making of EDA space policy, one has to turn from the intergovernmental form of the Agency – as opposed to the supranational Commission – to the actual socio-economic purpose and content of that policy. In the face of rising internationalization and competition as well as of declining budgets, EDA has been accepted as a space policy actor because it is an essential tool for the broadening of security and military-related market opportunities and applications, directly benefiting the European space manufacturers. The end-result of this process is a growing tendency towards militarisation of EU space policy, through the formal participation of a military institution such as EDA in the making of this policy. To the analysis of the basics of the Agency the article now turns.

II. The European Defence Agency: A brief overview

EDA was formally established by a Joint Action in 2004 and became fully operational in mid-2005.[ii] Essentially, this is the first truly EU-wide institution for the management of armaments affairs in the Union. The Agency’s 26 participating member states (pMS) include all EU member states except Denmark. The pMS are represented by officials from the Ministries of Defence; the supreme body at EDA is the Steering Board, composed of the defence ministers of each pMS plus a representative of the Commission without voting rights. The Head of the Agency is the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Yet, day-to-day running is assigned to the Chief Executive, who is responsible for the coordination of all directorates. Work at EDA is organised around four directorates: Capabilities; Research & Technology; Armaments; and Industry & Market.

The Agency is largely run through intergovernmental mechanisms. It is funded from yearly contributions by the participating member states, rendering it ‘very much an instrument of those Member States which choose to participate in the Agency’.[iii] As Aris Georgopoulos has pointed out, the EDA is not the supervisory body of a unified EU arms market but a cooperative framework at the disposal of the member states.[iv] Its decision-making body is the Steering Board, consisting of one representative from each pMS at the level of Defence Minister and a representative of the Commission. Note that, apart from informal meetings, there was no formal venue for Defence Ministers’ consultation at the EU level prior to EDA.

Although it does not have voting rights, the Commission can formally participate in the Agency’s programmes and projects.[v] Despite all rhetoric over the link of EDA to ESDP capabilities, the Commission is represented at EDA by DG Enterprise instead of DG Relex. During the Council deliberations for the setting up of EDA, Chris Patten from DG Relex represented the Commission because the Joint Action was a second pillar instrument. Given that the activities of the Agency belong de facto to the first pillar – Research & Technology, public procurement, industrial policy – it was decided to move the point of contact of the Commission in EDA from DG Relex to DG Enterprise. Another reason was the provision of the failed Constitutional Treaty under which Javier Solana was to become responsible for DG Relex while being Head of the Agency. In 2004, it seemed safer for the Commission to have in the EDA someone from the first pillar and DG Enterprise, rather than risking an under-representation of the Commission by Solana’s double institutional hat. The result was to link more closely the arms industry with EDA via DG Enterprise, the DG most directly associated with the arms producers.

In the Steering Board, decisions are taken by qualified majority voting (QMV) requiring at least two thirds of the votes; QMV is used as little as possible and consensus is sought, but its existence still deviates from strict intergovernmentalism. There is also an ‘emergency break’ or ‘safety break’ clause, according to which a vote is not taken if a pMS expresses the intention to oppose a decision ‘for important and stated reasons of national policy’.[vi] In that case, the Council can issue guidelines to the Steering Board or decide itself, provided that the Steering Board decides by QMV to refer the matter to the Council. Either way, the Council acts by unanimity. The application of QMV, even if qualified, prevents as a rule the blocking of decision-making by a single pMS. This emphasis on effectiveness is reinforced by the provision of ad hoc projects and programmes without the uniform participation of every pMS. This allows interested parties, i.e. the big arms-producing states, to proceed with projects under the flag of EDA when other pMS are not involved, mirroring proposals for the application of structured cooperation in ESDP. The concept of flexible integration is all the more important when considering the diverging visions of what EDA should look like. The UK opted for a coordinating agency without central management while the French pursued a more ambitious vision of an agency with more resources and with the potential of becoming a centralised defence procurement agency for the EU.

EDA is capabilities-oriented and, thus, project-oriented as well. Projects belong to two categories: Category A and Category B. The former is initiated by one or more pMS, or by the Agency’s Chief Executive and presumes participation of all members. The latter is also initiated by one or more pMS but does not presume participation of all other members; it is simply open to them. In practice, Category A projects involve a large amount of participants while Category B projects are restricted to fewer contributors. MUSIS, the key space-related EDA project, is a Category B one, and this is the type of projects that we shall deal mostly with, for the purposes of this paper.

Experts play a key role in the running of EDA through a number of channels. A primary venue for their participation is CapTechs, i.e. networks of experts focusing on particular technologies. Their role is to propose research & technology initiatives, based on pre-existing capability gaps and needs, which can lead to concrete projects. Experts also participate in Integrated Development Teams; they contribute to the preparatory stages of Steering Board decisions, but their main role is to coordinate the work of Project Teams (PT). The latter are groups tasked with the preparation of all accompanying activities linked to the launch of a project, such as training and exercises, as well as with the articulation of the military requirement on which each project is based. PTs consist of national experts sharing an interest in a specific topic, assisted by EDA officials and a pMS representative. Several PTs fall under the supervision of a single Integrated Development Team. These acronyms may seem complicated, yet they are extremely relevant to the topic at hand, given that certain PTs are especially dedicated to space-related areas. This point takes us to the concrete analysis of the involvement of EDA in space affairs.

III. The European Defence Agency and Space

Space did not reach the agenda of EDA during the early years of its operations. In 2005, the Agency’s then Director of Research & Technology Bertrand de Cordoue admitted that space was not a top priority for the Agency.[vii] The first annual programme included four ‘flagship’ programmes, and none of these involved space as a field of application. The first one, undertaken by the Capabilities Directorate, focused on Command, Control and Communications systems; the second one by the R&T Directorate was a technology demonstration project for long-endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV); the third one by the Armaments Directorate investigated prospects for the convergence of requirements and production of the armoured fighting vehicle sector; and the fourth one, initiated by the Market & Industry Directorate dealt with the European Defence Equipment Market.[viii] Next to them, a number of ad hoc projects appeared, such as the initiative on the monitoring of air-to-air refuelling procurement options with the participation of ten countries. Space was absent from these ad hoc projects as well.

However, after six years of operations, the picture now is radically different. Even though analysts have been right to point out that the Agency’s “role in the development of specific ‘space’ applications is still awaiting concrete conclusions”,[ix] developments are impressive, not only in terms of discursive exercising but also in terms of practical policy engagement. The involvement of EDA in EU space policy can be divided into a) direct involvement in project development; b) involvement in collaborative projects; and c) involvement in the definition of strategic requirements and orientation.

To begin with, EDA has been home to the development of the MUSIS earth observation project. This was launched by six member states (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and Belgium). It is planned to provide a multinational space-based imaging system for surveillance, reconnaissance and observation, to replace existing national earth-observation systems after 2015-2017. Such systems include the French Helios II and Pleiades, the German SAR LUPE and the Italian Cosmo-Skymed. By hosting the project, the Agency seeks to assure that the next generation of military earth observation satellites will form a network, rather than be built independently; this, of course, involves the provision of a common design architecture for all future European earth observation satellite systems. In March 2009, MUSIS became an EDA Category B project and was open to participation of other EDA participating Member States.[x]

Earth observation and projects such as MUSIS belong to the broader theme of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR). The depth of EDA’s interest in space is reflected in its decision to include ISR among the top ten priorities for capabilities development. In 2006, EDA awarded a contract to Thales for the Tactical Imagery Exploitation Station study, assessing the technological potential for interoperability between ISR systems and ground terminals. Additional contracts were awarded to Thales in 2007, in order to further test and demonstrate interoperability and compatibility issues between the EDA project and a similar NATO-led joint multi-sensor project.

Furthermore, EDA has provided its expertise to the maritime surveillance arm of the GMES. In November 2006, the Agency established a Project Team on Maritime Surveillance. Its mission was to establish the facts with respect to current assets and suggest options for future collaboration in the field of maritime surveillance, with special emphasis on collaboration with Frontex. In March 2008, the Agency called for the naval forces to identify a list of capabilities and tasked itself with ensuring that these needs and concerns would be taken into account in the shaping of GMES services and governance. At the same time, it delineated the possible spectrum of maritime surveillance missions, tasks and constraints.[xi] As shown by the European Space Policy Implementation Plan,[xii] EDA is more broadly in charge of identifying the requirements for GMES services dedicated to security users that fall within the context of ESDP, together with the Council, the Commission and the EU Satellite Centre.

The European Satellite Communication Procurement Cell (ESCPC) was launched in October 2009 as an EDA Ad Hoc Category B project. The participating states are France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland and the Netherlands. ESCPC is a three-year pilot project and, according to EDA estimates, could reach an annual business volume of about € 30 million.[xiii] The aim of ESCPC, as defined by one of its key officers, is “to unify the procurement of commercial SatCom capacity in order to reduce costs, promote ease of access and improve efficiency to deliver a better connectivity to armed forces of the EU Member States’.[xiv] Essentially, this is about manipulating the market for commercially available satellites through the centralisation and management of supply and demand for this product. After 2012, it is envisioned that ESCPC will end its pilot period and will be established as a separate entity, permanently available to member states. Apart from ESCPC, EDA is set to launch a study on mobile/tactical satellite communication gap analysis, an area where the European Space Agency (ESA) is already conducting research.[xv] Moreover, it is focusing on next generations of military satellite communications, identifying possible common requirements, collaborative schemes and critical research & technology areas for space-based radio-communication networks.

Since 2008, the Agency has also been assessing military requirements for space surveillance, in the context of improving EU space situation awareness. The latter term refers to the provision of data with regard to space environment and the potential threats to space-related assets, both in orbit and on the ground. An EDA Project Team was tasked with the elaboration of a Common Staff Target document on the harmonisation of military requirements for space situation awareness; in March 2010, this document was approved by the Agency’s Board. Military requirements fell into four broad categories: Recognised Space Picture; data security; governance of future European space situation awareness; and imaging of space objects.

The Work Programme for 2010 provided a fair picture of the responsibilities and tasks undertaken by EDA with respect to space. With respect to space-based earth observation, EDA was, firstly, supposed to evaluate future EU requirements, drawing on the experience from past operations. It was also tasked with promoting synergies between GMES and MUSIS as well as with the Commission in general concerning R&T, and it was called upon to help identify new participants for MUSIS. With respect to the ESCPC, it was invited to finalise its bureaucratic and technical details, launch its operational phase and promote the Cell to all pMS. Finally, as far as space situation awareness is concerned, EDA was mandated to endorse the Common Staff Target as well as to discuss requirements with ESA.[xvi]

The picture would be incomplete if we left out the strategic-ideological dimension of the Agency’s engagement with space. All pillars of the Agency’s perspective concerning space and defence are to be found in its Long-Term Vision, a key strategic document published in 2006. To begin with, the Vision places industrial protection at the heart of capabilities development; it calls for ‘averting a steady contraction and decline of the European defence industry by increasing investment; consolidating the European technological and industrial base; harnessing Europe’s full potential; and targeting what we want to preserve or develop’.[xvii] It also asserts the expeditionary, power-projection nature of ESDP missions, with a potentially global strategic reach. Finally, the Vision emphasises the role of knowledge as a vital resource in military conflict, focusing in particular on the need of military forces to possess the necessary intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. All of these elements lead to ‘offensive counter-space’, ‘situation awareness’, and ‘a broad range of sensors and systems, including satellites’;[xviii] in other words, they highlight an increased necessity to use space-based assets.

When it comes to EDA and space today, vision appears to be as powerful as reality. In fact, the sky is the limit, as far as the envisioned role of EDA in space affairs is concerned. As early as in 2003, the cream of Europe’s strategic institutes put forward the idea of setting-up a European Security and Defence Advanced Projects Agency that would provide the framework for exploring future space-related applied technologies;[xix] seeds of this idea were to be incorporated in EDA, a year later. Serge Plattard saw EDA as a tool for the reduction of the dependence of Europe on foreign supplies.[xx] Other experts have repeatedly viewed EDA as a venue for bringing together end-users, technology, programmes and industry. A study commissioned by the European Parliament defines potential EDA tasks as follows: ‘define capabilities … propose development programs and play a key role in the orientation of space-defence research, through the coordination with national Defence and Space Agencies and ESA’.[xxi] In general, despite its relative lack of funding – at least, the lack of sufficient funding for the undertaking of any meaningful space programme – the Agency can be seen as a valuable tool for the broadening and the deepening of EU mil-space agenda. How can one interpret the Agency’s role in the shaping of that agenda?

IV. Variety of forms, unity of purpose

European integration is characterised by a particular institutional form and socio-economic content. The historical materialist critique of mainstream integration theories suggests that these theories focus largely on the institutional form of integration, rather than on its social purpose.[xxii] According to this critique, the key question is not whether institutionalised authority lies on the side of supranational or intergovernmental units of analysis. Emphasis instead should be placed upon the socio-economic content, the purpose of the integration process, the particular class agencies whose interests are promoted through that process and the conflicts that arise out of it. Form and purpose, process and outcome are constitutive elements of European integration that belong to a broader structural context. The context in which integration evolves is shaped, in the last instance, by the social relations and forces of production.[xxiii] How does all this relate to our topic? The main hypothesis that stems from this framework is that the institutional actors involved in the making of military space policy will demonstrate a unity of purpose, which translates into a unity of action, despite the differences in institutional forms and the bureaucratic conflicts that may arise due to the emergence of a novel actor, such as EDA.

A year before the establishment of EDA, the European Commission noted that ‘a great deal of assessment is still needed about the capabilities and role of space policy in support of defence and security’.[xxiv] Seven years later, in November 2010, EDA was discursively acknowledged by the Councils of the EU and ESA as an institutional actor in the development of EU space capabilities. Specifically, the 7th Space Resolution invited ‘the European Commission, the EU Council, assisted by EDA, together with Member States and ESA, to explore ways to support current and future capability needs for crisis management through cost-effective access to robust, secure and reactive space assets and services’.[xxv] This has allowed EDA officers to publicly include the Agency in the core group of space policy-related institutions; ‘we need to progress on all these issues, “we” – meaning European institutions and Member States, the European Commission, the Council, the European Defence Agency, the European Space Agency and others’.[xxvi]

What about inter-institutional competition? A clear pattern is discernible here: irrespective of the various forms of the institutions engaged in the making of EU mil-space policy, they all share a common unity of purpose. This purpose is the strengthening of EU space capabilities and the provision of support to the European space manufacturers. Synergy, rather than competition, is the term that best describes interaction between space-related institutions. According to ESA, ‘the fact that EDA is part of such a joint effort will avoid duplication and create synergies between efforts to develop civil and defence-related space technologies. Moreover, the joint effort will foster the competitiveness of the European space industry on the world market’.[xxvii] In another discursive demonstration of inter-institutional synergies, the head of planning and policy at EDA noted that ‘there are reasons for combining our work in the context of the Commission’s European Security and Research Program, of the Kopernikus community and of ESA’.[xxviii] Could this be an exercise in public relations? Perhaps, yet it is one that accurately reflects the situation on the ground.

Much of the space-related work of EDA is undertaken jointly with ESA. The two agencies have collaborated extensively on the issue of the use of satellite systems for the integration of unmanned aerial systems in the European airspace. This collaboration culminated in a workshop co-organised by the two agencies in 2009, where EDA presented the outcome of its Air4All initiative, comprising a consortium of European aerospace companies active in the field of unmanned aerial systems. In 2008, the Agency had already awarded the consortium a €500,000 contract, in order to develop a roadmap for integrating unmanned aerial vehicles into European airspace.[xxix]

Moreover, the two agencies have been collaborating as members of the taskforce on critical space technologies for European non-dependence, together with the Commission. The aim of the taskforce is the coordination of investment in technological areas that are critical for EU space programmes and are provided by non-European states. EDA is expected to contribute to the development of critical space technologies through the implementation of research & technology projects. Essentially, the lack of any commercial prospect of such technologies means that the work of the Agency – and of the taskforce as such – is basically about the provision of public funding in private manufacturers. This is, in other words, not about defence and security, but rather about protectionism. Note the statement by an EDA official: ‘The idea is to select, for a given component, one company that we can agree to, and to agree among the governments that we won’t try to duplicate that product throughout Europe’.[xxx] Furthermore, the task of the Agency has been defined as follows: ‘Elaborate a targeted approach for the development of strategic components, concentrating on selected critical components, for which dependency of European industry on international suppliers should be avoided’.[xxxi] The agenda of ‘critical technologies’ is here to stay for EDA; the 2011 Work Programme states that the Agency shall ‘further identify critical technologies (e.g. space) and propose associated measures in co-ordination with the European Commission and the European Space Agency’.[xxxii] These considerations and functions are socio-economic and industry-oriented, rather than of a purely strategic and military nature, in the sense that they affect the basics of the political economy of space manufacturing: formation of new markets, expansion into existing ones, funding for research and technology, provision and homogenisation of requirements.

The Council, the Commission and the Agency are all participants to a process of structured dialogue, initiated in early 2008. This process followed the May 2007 Space Council’s call to set up a structured dialogue with the EDA ‘for optimizing synergies between all aspects of the European Space Policy’.[xxxiii] The topics of the space structured dialogue pretty much highlighted the scope of the Agency’s involvement in space: security aspects of GMES; space situational awareness and security of space infrastructure; European non-dependence in space; and space communications.[xxxiv] The three parties all agreed to prepare the issues to be discussed by the structured dialogue in relevant working groups, to systematically follow up the operating conclusions, and to meet regularly every six months at the Director’s level. Representatives from ESA may participate in the dialogue, on an ad-hoc basis, adding to the strong bilateral relations between EDA and ESA. The signing of an Administrative Agreement between EDA and ESA in June 2011 signalled both the strengthening of cooperation between the two institutions, as well as the upgrading of the position of EDA as a space policy actor. The agreement concerned primarily synergies in the field of capabilities development for crisis management and CSDP missions.

In fact, the Commission, the ESA and EDA together are all essential for securing the right magnitude for the project of EU space-industrial competitiveness. Thanks to its fully-fledged military scope and expertise, EDA can provide military requirements to space projects that are under development. By doing so, the scope of civilian and quasi-civilian projects is expanded, thus multiplying the range of missions, applications and, eventually, end-users. The following statement best sums up this argument: ‘EDA has a mandate to support the strengthening of the defence technical and industrial base which is to be considered strategic for a space sector that could face a budget reduction’.[xxxv] EDA enlarges the market frontiers of European space projects, magnifying their ‘critical mass’ and strengthening the profitability potential of their manufacturers. Furthermore, it surrounds EU space policy with an aura of urgency, linking it to the realm of security and defence; space policy after EDA is not any more about the exploration of the unknown, but rather about the protection against it. True, the Agency is involved not so much in the core EU mil-space policy – consisting of Galileo and GMES. Yet, it feeds developments in other essential aspects of this policy, such as space situation awareness and satellite communication. This by no means implies a secondary role for the Agency, but rather a role that complements existing projects and fills critical gaps in existing capabilities. Besides, as is the case with GMES and maritime surveillance, the Agency touches upon the core projects of EU space policy as well.

The rationale of the Agency’s role in that policy is two-fold: the need to develop military capabilities as part of the EU policy of power projection embodied in the European Security and Defence Policy; and the need to strengthen the global competitiveness of the European arms and aerospace manufacturers. The story of the former line of argumentation is by now well-established; not much, however, has been said about the relationship between industrial interests and EDA. The following section demonstrates that the involvement of the Agency in space policy follows a general pattern of dense interaction with the internationalised European arms industry – the latter being pretty much identical to the European space industry and its leading corporate units, i.e. EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space, through a prior wave of mergers & acquisitions -.[xxxvi]

V. The European Defence Agency and the European arms and aerospace industry

Since its inception, the EDA has been an intergovernmental initiative; the leading industrial EU member states played an instrumental role in pushing ahead with it. The most active governments were the ones with the highest stakes and the EDA can be seen as a primarily Franco-German initiative, while the UK also fed the Agency’s emphasis on capability development. Yet, the initiatives of these actors were directly linked to industrial interests, i.e. to the internationalised arms industry, and it could well be argued that EDA is an institution that the corporations pushed for and the governments established. Industrial pressure and involvement during the later stages of the establishment of the EDA was extensive.

The arms industry and the European Defence Industries Group, in particular, persistently advocated the establishment of a European armaments procurement agency in the mid-1990s.[xxxvii] Finally, arms manufacturers were offered a forum to present their views in the Strategic Aerospace Review 21 (STAR 21), published in July 2002. STAR 21 was an analysis of the EU political and regulatory framework of aerospace by a team set up by the Commission’s DG Enterprise.[xxxviii] The panel, named the European Advisory Group on Aerospace, consisted primarily of corporate leaders from the arms and aerospace sector, together with members of the Commission. The Chairmen of EADS, BAE Systems, Thales, Finmeccanica, Snecma and Rolls Royce were all members of the Group. Later, when the European Convention debated the defence clauses of the Constitutional Treaty, the industry was also there. Representatives of the national and European armaments establishment, including senior industrialists from EADS and BAE Systems, and the President of the European Defence Industries Group topped the list of experts heard by Working Group VIII. The Vice-President of EADS called for the establishment of a ‘European Security and Defence Research Agency’, the President of EDIG advocated a ‘Common Armaments Agency’ and the BAE Systems representative mentioned the importance of ESDP as a precondition of a successful agency.[xxxix]

Individual companies were particularly visible in their advocacy of the Agency. Their efforts culminated in an open letter to the European press, signed by the CEOs of EADS, BAE Systems and Thales, which invited EU policy-makers to strengthen their efforts in policy and planning coordination. According to the industrialists, the creation of an EU armaments agency ‘would take on massive strategic importance for the future of the European defence industry’.[xl] The executives also called for an increase in national military budgets, juxtaposing the European level of military investment to the US one. Others publicised their vision of an agency with increased supervisory capacity on a common pool of EU R&D resources, bringing together military research and project management.[xli]

The AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) – the umbrella political representation group of the European aerospace and arms industry – provided extensive input in the discussions over the establishment of the Agency through its EU Working Group.[xlii] Industrial engagement increased during deliberations at the Armaments Establishment Team – the nucleus of individuals that set up the Agency – when it was clear that intergovernmental consensus was about to initiate a novel scheme of armaments cooperation. This was a small team and lacked a common doctrine, therefore the arms industry found a fertile ground to establish links through ASD and individual companies. The formal recognition of ASD and European arms manufacturers as the Agency’s consulting partners reflected these close links, with the 2004 Report of the Establishment Team declaring that ‘the Agency will consult closely with the…ASD, as well as directly with European companies’.[xliii] The European arms industry advocated a particular EDA, not just any armaments agency. A document published in October 2003 by the three lobbying groups that were soon to set up ASD set out a detailed account of what the missions, programme and institutional structure should be.[xliv] They asked for a senior figure to act as chair of the agency and for the fast setting-up of the agency. Indeed, the EDA was placed under the aegis of Solana and established swiftly in 2004.

The European arms industry had plenty of reasons to be delighted by the creation of the EDA. The Agency provided a political forum for the EU ministers of defence to meet regularly at the EU level and to shape EU military-industrial affairs. This has had important political repercussions for arms manufacturers, given that their relations with the Ministries of Defence are closer than those with other governmental departments. In addition, economic benefits were guaranteed. The propagation of budgetary increases, the boosting of R&T expenditure and the restructuring of the market for armaments in the EU were all tangible benefits for the European internationalised arms industry that stem from the Agency. The transformation of the EDA into an EU procurement agency was also put on the table as a future scenario, thereby simplifying the industry’s interaction with the end-user and buyer of its products.

Key corporate figures welcomed the EDA and addressed ways to boost its effectiveness. In a second open letter, the CEOs of the big-three – EADS, BAE Systems and Thales – called for an increase in the resources and political support given to the EDA by member states. The argumentation used by the corporate leaders highlighted the transatlantic dimension of industrial competition. With regard to competition from American military firms, the letter suggested that Europe lacked investment and market size compared to the US, and that thus the ‘industry in Europe is under enormous competitive pressure from the United States’.[xlv] Furthermore, the industrialists called upon EU member states to set clear capability targets and fill capability shortfalls, to shape and fund a strategic research agenda, to break down national market barriers and to protect EU technological-industrial capabilities vis-à-vis US competition.

Individual European arms corporations followed the same line of argumentation. The 2003 annual report of EADS applauded the setting-up of the EDA as proof of the realisation of the need to integrate national defence policies, harmonise investment and specify common requirements.[xlvi] The same theme was repeated in the 2004 annual report that viewed the establishment of the EDA as ‘likely to lead to more pan-European, and better coordinated procurement, with larger production runs’.[xlvii] The expectations of the European industry involved both qualitative and quantitative changes in the patterns of military procurement and expenditure. EDA was meant to contribute to homogenisation and the increase of production through the increase in demand for military equipment. Finmeccanica joined the voices that publicly supported the creation of EDA and proposed ways to make its work more effective.[xlviii] The corporation called for the Agency to engage with dual-use technology and to encourage co-financing of projects by civil agencies.

Successive presidents of ASD welcomed the creation of EDA while voicing their concerns over potential dangers such as the lack of R&T funding and decision-making complexity.[xlix] ASD viewed EDA as ‘a crucial step towards harmonisation of the defence and security requirements and procurement planning of European governments’.[l] Consequently, one of the ten priorities of ASD for the first year of its operations was to ‘support the creation of the European Defence Agency and the related development of a coherent market for European Defence’.[li] European military-industrial capital established itself as an EDA actor in terms not only of influence on its making, but also of participation in its policy-making processes. A leading British arms industry official summarised the industry’s guiding principle: ‘early and strategic consultation with industry on future capability should be an essential component of EDA work. It should become part of the normal process’.[lii] ASD was formally recognised by the Agency as one of its partners in the 2005 EDA Work Programme.[liii] Indeed, it became an EDA partner in every sense of the word, constantly feeding the policy-making process, proposing and setting up common events. In October 2006, the two organisations co-organised two workshops on defence test facilities and on the European Defence Equipment Market respectively, for new member states.[liv] Moreover, ASD provided input for the Long-Term Vision, feeding the strategic orientation of the Agency. Driven by industrial concerns, the Vision invoked the US competitive threat with such strong wording as: ‘the trends point towards a steady contraction of the European defence industry into niche producers working increasingly for US primes’.[lv] The European Land Defence Industry Group, set up by land industries in 2003 and integrated into ASD, fed decision-making in the AFV flagship project by identifying the final project sub-fields and priority technology development areas.[lvi] Finally, ASD was the prime partner of the EDA in drawing up the Agency’s list of characteristics and challenges for the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base.[lvii]

Arms manufacturers utilised their instrumental power to secure implementation of their priorities. Finmeccanica revealed in its 2005 Annual Report that relations with the EDA ‘were tightened, for the provision of new technological development areas on UAV and Software Radio’.[lviii] Two technology study contracts on Long Endurance UAVs were awarded to consortia led by the Finish firm Patria – where EADS is a key stakeholder – and Sagem respectively. Interaction between the EDA and the industry was close from the start of the programme.[lix] Moreover, representatives from European arms manufacturers participate in every CapTech, the nucleus of EDA R&T policy-making. The benefits for the industry are direct in terms of funding as well as indirect, in terms of future exploitation of technologies. Similar yields are to be expected in the field of space.

VI. Conclusion

The paper began by providing a historical and technical overview of EDA as a novel and significant institutional player in EU armaments affairs. Next, it discussed in detail the Agency’s involvement in space policy, by presenting the multiplicity of projects and strategies that it hosts and feeds into. After establishing the extensive role that EDA has gradually maintained in EU military space affairs, the analysis attempted to interpret the politico-economic processes and interests that underpin this role. It was argued that the Agency’s involvement in military space policy cannot be regarded as simply a quest for institutional expansion and autonomy; it is a process that fulfils a unity of social purpose, irrespective of the variation of institutional forms carried by the primary actors. Such a unity of purpose is geared towards the competitive survival of the European space industry, through the broadening of its military arm of products and applications. This pattern was confirmed by an analysis of the broader linkages between the arms industry and the Agency since the latter’s conception. Space came later into the agenda because armaments and ‘defence’ had essentially to come first, given the scope and mission of the Agency. Yet, the dense interaction between the institution and the industry had been established from the beginning.

Essentially, such a view points to the centrality of the industrial-class subject in the formulation of European policies and priorities in space. If there is indeed a strengthening of European identity via space, this strengthening is underpinned by socio-economic interests that strive for survival and expansion in a competitive global market, rather than by a people’s quest for such an identity per se. The ideational construction of a ‘European identity’ might be appealing to many, and the image of satellites carrying the EU flag will probably add to the appeal of such a construction; yet, none of this would have been possible without the conscious political action of institutions and individuals seeking to ensure the European space manufacturers’ long-term competitiveness. The establishment of a common European policy for security and armaments has provided the interested parties with new space applications, new users, new markets, and, above all, new sources of legitimacy, thereby facilitating the enlargement of the EU space agenda and reinforcing its effects on European identity construction.

By no means does this assertion imply that space manufacturers have replaced member-states as promoters of national technological, industrial and security priorities. There are two processes running concurrently: The first one is the traditional bottom-up feeding of policy-making by member-states seeking to promote their respective, nationally-based military-industrial capitals under the veil of the ‘national interest’. The second one is the direct interaction between the internationalised fraction of European military-industrial capital and the Agency, through the activities of ASD and individual companies. The two processes are both complementing – to the extent that they both serve the purpose of strengthening the military-industrial arm of the EU – and competing – to the extent that they reflect contradictions between different individual producers as well as between producers and the state as the mediator of the ‘general interest’.

What is, in this context, the primary politico-economic effect of the insertion of EDA in the making of EU space policy? Standing in agreement with Frank Slijper,[lx] we conclude that the best term that can shed light on the processes unfolding in the context of EU mil-space policy is ‘militarisation’. In a sense, this study complements Slijper’s argument by adding EDA to the toolbox of space policy militarisation. However, it is important to clarify that in the case of EDA, militarisation does not denote an increased propensity to wage war (militarism), nor does it signify the placement of weapons in outer space (weaponisation). Here, militarisation points to the increasing insertion of military institutions, strategies and resources in a previously civilian-only policy, that is, EU space policy. The rapid engagement of EDA with this field constitutes an instance of militarisation, due to the clear and indisputable military identity and orientation of the Agency.

To conclude, the story of EDA and space is a two-way street; it highlights not only the increasing role of the Agency in EU security and armaments affairs general, but also the rising significance of EU military space policy for European security and military institutions and planning. Space may well become the next ‘big’ project of European security and defence policy integration, if not of European integration per se. That said, EU military space policy is still an extremely contradictory odyssey, whose ending remains to be decided in the future. Despite the large wave of internationalisation in the 1990s, the persisting national basis of space-industrial capital in Europe means that, despite its political activities at the EU level, the internationalised European space industry has not overcome the established association with a single national market and the respective connection to the political unit of the nation-state. Add the declining military budgets and the gloomy prospects for public finances in much of the euro-zone, and one has the full picture of an endeavour that is both very ambitious and severely limited. In the case of EU military space odyssey, between the Scylla of rising competition among the metropolises of global capitalism and the Charybdis of persisting intra-EU contradictions, there lies the Ithaca of an independent, competitive and robust EU space policy and industry. In Ulysses’ fleet, EDA appears to be one of the most promising and effective triremes.

References and notes available only in print version.

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