EDA To Take Charge of EU Defense Research Groups

(Brooks Tigner, Defense News, 22 April 2005)

The 25-nation European Union plans to tighten its coordination of cross-border armaments and defense research programs by placing their control under the European Defense Agency. The agency said it will absorb the activities of Europe's two main collaborative defense research groups within the next year. During an April 22 meeting here, the EDA's governing steering board agreed the agency should take over all armaments and defense research contracts and activities of the Western European Armaments Organization (WEAO) and the Western European Armaments Group (WEAG). The two research entities belong to the near-defunct Western European Union defense organization, nearly all of whose member countries belong to the European Union. Folding them into the EDA will make collaborative research and technology "more cost-effective and tie it more closely to the capabilities needed" to implement the EU security and defense policy, said Dirk Ellinger, EDA director of research and technology, who chaired the meeting. Absorbing the work of WEAG and WEAO "will give [research and technology] collaboration a much stronger political impulse," added Nick Witney, the agency's chief executive.

Created in 1993, WEAG's armaments activity never reached the level expected and will close its doors in May. The nine-year-old WEAO, however, has been more active. It oversees some 40 defense research projects worth approximately 200 million euros ($261 million), according to one EDA official, who said "we expect it not to take on any new contracts or business until it, too, can be absorbed." That process will take place progressively from now until the first quarter of 2006, when WEAO's absorption will be complete, the EDA said in a statement after the meeting. Noting that the value of WEAO's work equals about 5 percent of all collaborative defense research in Europe, the official said: "We aim to do much better than that."