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Three Years After Saint-Malo, European Defense "Operational"

Three Years After Saint-Malo, European Defense "Operational"

Speech in London delivered by Mr Alain Richard, French Minister of Defence in London, January 28th, 2002.

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, let me say that I am very honoured to speak in front of you, representatives of the Industry, who play a significant role in the development of Defence and Armament co-operation in Europe.

I would like to share with you some thoughts on the recent developments in these fields and on the possible ways of progress, underlining the central role of the French-British relationship in this respect.

Latest developments of European defence

Three years after the Saint-Malo Summit, European Defence was declared operational as expected at the European Summit in Laeken. This has been a political act, a strong signal heralding that the EU is able to manage a crisis and has available decision and crisis-management capabilities.

Our two countries have been at the forefront in building European Defence tools, as Geoff Hoon said. No doubt they will also take their due share when it comes to using them.

Experience shows that, whether in Bosnia or more recently in Afghanistan, we always found ourselves taking our responsibilities together in peace-keeping.

The EU's capacity to act has not yet reached the objective we set in Helsinki. It will improve as we will go on strengthening our military capabilities.

In this respect, the Capabilities improvement conference, held on November, 19th, has allowed to proceed to a detailed review of national, bilateral and multilateral programs in EU. We decided to fill clearly identified shortfalls in various areas. Bridging our gaps in these areas will help to meet the requirements of crisis management, and will also strengthen our capacity to act against terrorism, since it to a large extent the same capabilities that are needed for both purposes (e.g. : strategic transport, intelligence).

Related progress in the field of Armament

Filling the identified falls is therefore a high priority, that our two countries are ready to address with determination.

In this respect, an initiative was undertaken last November between the fifteen national armament directors accompanied by experts of military planning. They have proposed a methodology to bridge the lacks of capacity, based on the creation of capability action-groups on a voluntary basis.

These groups will be in charge to define the more effective and competitive ways to acquire the operational capabilities. They shall in particular imagine alternative and innovative ways of co-operations. These co-operations can, for example, be based on a mutualisation of national capabilities, or on the co-ordination of programs in the frame of global functional and technical architectures - I am thinking about C3I capabilities. These groups proposals shall fully take into account the lessons learnt from the difficulties and successes of former co-operations.

I think this initiative is potentially fruitful as it aims at being pragmatic in finding concrete and rapid solutions. I am therefore fully confident in the progress it will permit. It shall constitute a good source of opportunities for industry that I invite you to explore.

You have noticed that during the London Summit, held on November, 29th, the United Kingdom and France have agreed on three capabilities they wish to promote through dedicated action groups : air to air refuelling, nuclear biological and chemical protection, and unmanned air vehicles. The concrete translation of this decision has been quite rapid as one of these groups has already been launched and met for the first time last week in Brussels.

As far as our bilateral co-operation is concerned, both our ministers of defence share a high degree of political will to jointly prepare future defence systems. I notice with a great satisfaction the deep and fruitful work and reflections lead by our two countries, based on a regular exchange of information related to our needs, in order to assess the common endeavours we could implement.

This process is eased by the similarity of our organisations and approaches in terms of prospective and research. You have in the United Kingdom the "capability managers" and in France, we have "system architectes". You use the concept of "towers of excellence" and we have defined a model of "technological capabilities".

This common approach shall lead to more bilateral or multilateral programs and to deeper co-operation in research and technology activities. Programs such as SCAFE-ETAP, dealing with technology for future air combat systems, the future air to air missile METEOR, the surface to air system PAAMS and the cruise missile SCALP - STORM SHADOW are some examples of an already rich co-operation based on the pragmatic and effective ways I have mentioned.

Industrial consolidation in Europe

The progress in the enhancement of Europe military capabilities is also based on an industrial consolidation. For four years, the European governments the most directly interested in the defence industry have been striving to achieve the technical and industrial basis required to provide our forces with the necessary equipment in the long-run, at the best level of competitiveness.

Today, the European defence industry is a full reality, structured around three major groups: BAE SYSTEMS, EADS and THALES. These groups are now large enough to offer world class products and services and to gain shares in a highly competitive market.

The recent creation of MBDA, a joint-venture between EADS, BAE SYSTEMS and Finnmeccanica is also very encouraging. It will have the opportunity to launch and lead ambitious research programs and to master the finest technologies to match our operational needs.

We achieved various important milestones in order to facilitate the activity of these trans-national European companies, while insuring that our strategic defence interests are correctly taken into account.

Concerning the Letter of Intent (LoI), signed by the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden and France, a lot has been done, several measures concerning export procedures and information security being already in force.

Concerning procurement, significant progress has been achieved in program management, by giving to OCCAR, the Joint Armament Co-operation Organisation, a legal status. OCCAR, who is operational since already five years, has already proved its efficiency in managing 7 major programs. Participating countries have taken the habit, through these 5 years, to better co-operate and use the best procurement and management methods. This permitted 8 Governments to give to OCCAR, on December, 18th, the responsibility to lead the A400M program, which is a stake of high importance to enhance the European air lift capabilities.

We all are very pleased to notice the increasing interest of new European partners, the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium, for this innovative procurement structure.

Opening of the markets

In addition, European governments are sending a powerful signal of their commitment to make European co-operation a reality by enlarging the scope of their suppliers on a European basis. In a market where industrial actors have strengthened their power by developing external growth and alliances, it definitely makes sense for governments to extend their national bids so as to gain fairer deals. Besides, choosing a European partner rather than a less competitive domestic supplier is the evidence that Europe is the relevant field for industrial as for political choice.

We have the same interest in enlarging bids and offers. This is why I am very pleased by the initiative taken by Lord Bach and Yves Gleizes to organise tomorrow a conference entitled "Defence procurement : working with each other", assembling representatives from Government and Industry. I know that during this conference you will be given important briefings on our future respective requirements and on our procurement procedures. This information will initiate a dynamic for a better mutual understanding, and will encourage our companies to work together.

I thank you all for your attention, and I wish you a fruitful conference tomorrow.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).