The EU Global Strategy (EUGS) presented in June 2016 called for the “gradual synchronisation and mutual adaptation of national defence planning cycles and capability development practices” to enhance strategic convergence between Member States and facilitate and promote defence cooperation among them.

In the November 2016 Council conclusions on implementing the EUGS in the area of security and defence, Member States invited the HRVP/Head of the EDA to present proposals on the scope, modalities and content of a Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD). Such an annual review would help foster capability development addressing shortfalls, deepen defence cooperation and ensure more optimal use, including coherence, of defence spending plans. Building on the Policy Framework for Systematic and Long-Term Defence Cooperation, the objective of the CARD is “to develop, on a voluntary basis, a more structured way to deliver identified capabilities based on greater transparency, political visibility and commitment from Member States”.

EDA acting as CARD secretariat

The EDA, in cooperation with the European External Action Service (EEAS), subsequently produced a concept paper detailing the various CARD elements. This paper received advice from the EU Military Committee and was also discussed by Member States’ Defence Policy Directors, Capability Directors, National Armaments Directors as well as in several EU Council working bodies and the EU Military Committee.

On the basis of that work, the Council endorsed on 18 May 2017 the modalities to establish the CARD, starting with a ‘trial run’ involving all Member States as of autumn 2017. This should allow Member States to test, adapt and validate the approach as necessary ahead of the first full CARD implementation in autumn 2019.

For the CARD to provide real added value, it is of great importance to ensure the most up-to-date and detailed information possible is collected from Member States on defence plans (including spending plans), as well as the implementation of the EU capability development priorities resulting from the Capability Development Plan (CDP). That crucial role of gathering all relevant information is being played by the EDA who acts as the ‘CARD secretariat’.

2017 CARD Trial Run Methodology

In order to make the 2017 CARD trial run a success, EDA has developed a methodology presented to Member States’ Capability Directors in September 2017, based on the following elements and procedural steps:

  • Initial Information. EDA’s starting point is an analysis of all CARD relevant information already available in EDA databases or being made available by Member States, including NATO’s Defence Investment Pledge Report for those who are also NATO Allies. The result of this first initial information gathering is shared with Member States bilaterally.
  • Bilateral Dialogues. EDA will then enter into bilateral dialogues with each Member State individually, in order to validate, complement and consolidate the initial information gathered in the previous phase,  in consistency with NATO’s Defence Planning Process.
  • CARD Analysis. Once the bilateral dialogues are completed, the EDA will compile and analyse Member States’ contributions and produce a ‘CARD Analysis’ that will present aggregate data and identify trends regarding defence spending plans, implementation of priorities resulting from the CDP and relevant to defence research programmes, as well as opportunities for defence cooperation. This analysis will be discussed with Member States and will form the basis of the final report to be submitted to Ministers.
  • CARD Report. The final CARD report, to be drafted by the EDA based on the outcome of the previous steps, will present the main results of the review as well as associated recommendations. Lessons learned drawn from the trial run will be derived with Member States and presented to the Council in the perspective of the first full CARD cycle in 2019.

CDP, CARD, PESCO, EDF: different tools for a common objective

The CARD is not meant as a stand-alone tool. Together with the revised Capability Development Plan (CDP), the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF), it is set to become a cornerstone of a coherent EU mechanism to boost collaborative defence capability planning, development, procurement and operation. The implementation of the priorities identified by Member States in the revised CDP are analysed by the CARD, and subsequent new collaborative projects can be launched by Member States in various formats - under PESCO, within the EDA or in other bilateral or multinational frameworks - some of which may be co-funded by the EDF.