by Philip Worré, former Executive Director, ISIS Europe
On 19 November 2012, EDA member states demonstrated a certain degree of much-needed pragmatism considering the current economic climate: in the face of additional funding cuts, they adopted a Code of Conduct on Pooling & Sharing, a document that provides guidelines to “support cooperative efforts of EU Member States to develop defence capabilities” and help “[mainstream] Pooling & Sharing in Member States’ planning and decision-making process”.
In this Code of Conduct, the EDA discreetly shifts its emphasis from promoting Pooling & Sharing as a way to contribute to combating the economic crisis, to protecting the EDA’s acquis. Whereas the forefather of the Pooling & Sharing initiative, the November 2010 Ghent Initiative between Germany and Sweden, stated that “there are great profits to be made by finding ways of sharing expenses and burdens”— underlining that collaborative efforts and rationalization efforts could be a useful tool to help boost the economy in the sector of the defence industry – the EDA has now entered into a more conservative and protective mode, reflecting the climate of pessimism and in anticipation of additional budgetary cuts in defence spending.
Among the 11 points listed in the Code of Conduct, of particular interest are points 6 (“When a Pooling & Sharing project is agreed, endeavour to accord it a higher degree of protection from potential cuts”) and 11 (“Benefit from information through EDA when conducting national defence reviews, for example on Pooling & Sharing opportunities and the impact of budget cuts.”)
Whereas most of the other points merely outline gestures of good will between member states (e.g. point 4: “Share opportunities that could be open to Pooling & Sharing” or point 8: “Endeavour to allocate the necessary investment to support the development of future capabilities…”), points 6 and 11 outline measures that would help protect existing projects from additional budgetary cuts. As the overall defence expenditure of the 26 EDA member states is decreasing (by 4% to 5% from 2008 to 2010 – EDA figures), it is reasonable to assume that sooner or later, projects developed within the Pooling & Sharing framework were going to be further affected by cuts. By implying that EDA member states should accord a “higher degree of protection from potential cuts”, the Code of Conduct is bold in promoting the protection of collaborative projects over national projects against cuts, a first chip in the wall surrounding the sacrosanct domain of national interest linked to solely national defence technological and industrial base.
A major obstacle in the path of effective Pooling & Sharing has always been the lack of motivation of a state to share its part of a project in the name of cooperation; the trend, neo-realist institutionalist, has often been to promote cooperation as long as national interest is protected. It is only logical that if cuts were needed, collaborative projects would be prime targets. In this way, the Code of Conduct is a signal in the right direction.
Of course, there is no firm commitment as the Code of conduct is non-binding; yet the signal is positive, and will hopefully herald future additional commitments to the concept of Pooling & Sharing.