An informal meeting of the EU Member States’ Defence Policy Directors was held on 19-20 February 2018 at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. The meeting aimed at supporting the preparation of the next Foreign Affairs/Defence Council, which will be held on 6 March in Brussels, and discussed developments in the political and military aspect of the EU’s Common Security and Defence policy (CSDP). The working sessions were chaired by the Deputy Secretary General at the European External Action Service (EEAS), Pedro Serrano.
The first session addressed the EU-NATO cooperation and was joined by a NATO representative. The participants agreed that after the signing of the Warsaw Declaration, the interaction between the two organisations has been characterised by definite progress. The intensification and enhancement of their relations at institutional and operational level is to proceed through the implementation of the over seventy measures that were already identified and agreed, which allow for joint or synchronised activities on issues of mutual interest.
The second session discussed the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in the area of defence and its congruity with the other initiatives ensuing from the Global Strategy for the European Union's Foreign and Security Policy. The Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency, Jorge Domecq, and the Director General of the EU Military Staff, Lieutenant General Esa Pulkkinen, presented their analyses of the National Implementation Plans (NIPs) for the binding common commitments under PESCO which were undertaken by the participating EU member states in December 2017. In view of the upcoming steps towards a review and update of the NIPs, they proposed recommendations on the further stages of the process to incorporate information from the member states allowing for smooth correlation, recapitulation and evaluation of the implementation of the undertaken commitments.
The participants in the meeting also discussed the key elements of the Roadmap elaborated by the Secretariat of the PESCO on further work under the initiative, which encompasses the deadlines within which to approve the first and the second set of projects, to update the National Implementation Plans (NIPs), and to draw up a summary implementation report. The representative of the European Commission informed the participants of the development of the legislative procedure regarding the adoption of the Regulation establishing the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) by the summer of 2018. The intention is to retain the envisaged co-financing rate for PESCO projects by means of the European Defence Fund in the event that they also meet the EDIDP criteria.
On improving military mobility, preliminary views were expressed on future work in the four areas identified with regard to overcoming legal, diplomatic, customs and infrastructural barriers that hamper the rapid movement of military forces and assets within the EU. The importance of this issue was also discussed in light of the relationship with NATO. Participants agreed that improving military mobility is a complex task of utmost importance to both organisations, which need to make a concerted effort to solve it in the interest of European and Euro-Atlantic security.
The meeting was part of the agenda of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. It was attended by over seventy delegates from all member states, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission and the European Defence Agency (EDA), and hosted by Rositsa Dimitrova, Director of the Bulgarian MoD Defence Policy Directorate.