European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP) Burkard SCHMITT At the Helsinki European Council in December 1999, EU member states set themselves the headline goal of being able, by 2003, to deploy within 60 days and sustain for at least one year forces up to corps level (60,000 men). One year later, at the Capabilities Commitment Conference in Brussels, they committed themselves, on a voluntary basis, to making national contributions to these EU rapid reaction capabilities. The comparative analysis of both the ‘Helsinki Headline Goal Catalogue’ (specifying the operational requirements for the Petersberg Tasks) and the ‘Force Catalogue’ (setting out national commitments) revealed considerable shortfalls in national capability commitments. Among the 38 capability shortfalls identified in the so-called ‘Helsinki Progress Catalogue’, 21 were evaluated as “significant.” At the Laeken European Summit in December 2001, the EU Council decided to launch the European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP) to address these shortfalls. From March 2002 onwards, 19 panels of national experts developed possible solutions. These were: Attack Helicopters/Support Helicopters Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Protection (NBC) Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV)/Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) Units Medical Role 3/Medical Collective Protection Role 3 Special Operations Forces (SOF) Carrier Based Air Power Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) Cruise Missiles/Precision Guided Munitions Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence Deployable Communication Modules Headquarters (OHQ, FHQ, CCHQs) Theatre Surveillance and Reconnaissance Air Picture Strategic ISR IMINT Collection UAV (HALE, MALE and tactical UAVs) Early Warning and Distant Detection Strategic Level Strategic Air Mobility/Outsized Transport Aircraft, General Cargo Aircraft Roll-On-Roll-Off Vessels (RO-RO)/General Cargo Shipping The panels met independently and were composed of at least one ‘lead nation’ per panel, active participants and observers. The work of the panels was coordinated by the “Headline Goal Task Force”, which drew upon the support of the EU military staff (EUMS). Panels presented their final reports on 1st March 2003. The ECAP process has been guided by four core principles: (1) The improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of European defence efforts, enhancing cooperation between member states or groups of member states; (2) A ‘bottom up’ approach to European defence cooperation, relying on voluntary national commitments; (3) Coordination between EU member states as well as coordination with NATO; (4) Public support through ECAP’s transparency and visibility. The identified shortfalls vary widely in importance, nature, operational implications and the possible ways to rectify them. One category can be addressed if member states revise their contributions and offer capabilities they already have but which, for different reasons, have not been offered before. A second category, however, consists of shortfalls for which capabilities do not exist in national inventories and which can only be rectified if member states acquire the required capability. Some of these shortfalls can be temporarily addressed by short-term solutions such as leasing or upgrading. For a number of shortfalls, including some related to strategic capabilities, a long-term solution requires largescale procurement projects. Some of these projects are already under way, others not. During the first phase, neither national planners nor procurement specialists were involved in the panel’s work, leaving somewhat unclear if and how ECAP would actually lead to the development of the required new capabilities. While EU defence ministers declared at the Capability Conference on 19 May 2003 that the EU “now has operational capability across the full range of Petersberg tasks,” they acknowledged that this capability remains “limited and constrained by recognised shortfalls.”1 1 See Declaration on EU military capabilities, 19 May 2003, p. 2. Following an evaluation by the EUMC, member states established ten project groups at the Capability Conference ‘focused on the implementation of concrete projects, including solutions through acquisition or other solutions such as leasing, multinationalisation and considering possibilities for role specialisation.’2 The following table outlines these ten project groups, each headed again by a ‘lead nation’. PROJECT GROUP LEAD NATION Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) Spain Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) Germany Headquarters (HQ) United Kingdom Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection (NBC) Italy Special Operations Forces (SOF) Portugal Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (TBMD) Netherlands Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) France Strategic Airlift Germany Space based assets France Interoperability Issues and Working Procedures for Evacuation and Humanitarian Operations Belgium ECAP is generally considered to be a promising approach to tackle capability shortfalls. It has, however, several weak points: First, it remains voluntary and lacks credibility as long as commitments are not underpinned with the necessary funding. Second, ECAP has lacked leadership. Member states have been free to participate and to take commitments, and the EUMS apparently has had difficulties to follow, let alone coordinate, the work in the various Panels. Third, the working method (regular meetings of national experts) has been hardly innovative. Last but not least, ECAP has been a pure ad hoc exercise, limited both in time (focusing only on current shortfalls) and scope (dealing only with shortfalls in commitments to the Headline Goal Force). There are constant attempts, however, to improve the existing mechanism. At its meeting on 17 November 2003, the Council underlined the need to complement the ECAP with an approach capable of identifying objectives, drawing up timelines and reporting procedures to the Council in close co-operation with each project group. Therefore it tasked the relevant Council bodies to develop an ECAP roadmap to monitor the ECAP progress and allow member states to redirect the work of the project groups if deemed necessary. Accompanied by a Capability Improvement Chart including a state-of-play of the project groups and a clear readable overview for public opinion and the media, the ECAP roadmap should be presented as an integral part of the Single Progress Report during each presidency. However, the future of the ECAP process is unclear. One option is to transfer its function to the European Defence Agency that the European Council of Thessaloniki decided to set up in the course of 2004. 2 See Declaration on EU military capabilities, 19 May 2003, p. 4.