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Event Report - European Defence Industry Summit

A month and a half ago I had the opportunity to attend the European Defence Industry Summit, taking place in Egmont Palace, Brussels. The organizers together with the European Business Summit team did a great job in providing an excellent follow-up material, which allowed having a detailed overview of all the speeches and presentations. [See summary note written by Mrs. Armida van Rij, Policy Researcher, King's College London]. However, in order to continue follow-up exchange of information I would like to present some of my observations and reflections, inviting participants and other interested parties to share their impressions and further topics to address regarding European Defence policies.

It is amazing how sometimes in life things come together. For several years, I have been subscribed to EU Events Newsletter and it has been an excellent source of weekly information regarding major conferences, forums, summits and seminars taking place in Brussels.

In late November while searching for security and defence topics related events in Brussels I received the EU Events weekly newsletter offering a possibility to attend the European Defence Industry Summit on 4th of December 2017 taking place in parallel with The General Assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association [link:] and organised by European Business Summit [link:]. I replied immediately and shortly after an official invitation was sent to me by the organizers.

The morning of day of the Summit the presence of the police officers and metal fences around the entrance made the arrival feel like a mini-G8 Summit.

After scrupulous security checks and crossing a paved courtyard I entered the Egmont Palace. It was the first time for me and I was amazed how impressive the venue is with its sumptuous interior decorations and wide marble staircases leading to the second floor. I have been attending events all around Europe since 2004 as part of my diplomatic career and there is definitely a certain part of an event being successful which is related to the choice and type of the venue – it simply sets the mood and tone for the rest of the day. And the Egmont Palace in Brussels is certainly one of the best places for a Summit level event.

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[Egmont Palace staircase. Photo by Mrs. Signe Martisune © Signe Martisune]

The organisation of the event was remarkable in every aspect. At the welcoming coffee participants used this opportunity to make introductions and network. My concerns about having wi-fi connection in order to be able to do live-tweeting where unnecessary – everything was organized in such a manner that there were no logistics issues that could prevent participants from focusing on the topics being discussed. There were also separate rooms set up for the speakers to prepare and have a bit of peace and quiet.

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[Welcoming coffee. Photo by Mrs. Signe Martisune © Signe Martisune]

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[Egmont Palace, room. Photo by Mrs. Signe Martisune © Signe Martisune]

As I soon found out, the audience consisted of diplomats, defence industry representatives, members of the European Parliament, European Commission officials, journalists, NGO representatives, as well as university professors and students from the biggest Belgian and European universities. Some of the youngest participants were members of Youth Atlantic Treaty Association – the young professionals’ contingent of the Atlantic Treaty Association.

Having Mrs. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, as opening the keynote speaker was probably one of the main points of attraction of the whole event. Unfortunately due to unplanned commitments on Mrs Mogherini’s side, her speech was replaced at the last minute by Mrs. Jorge Domecq, Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency.

Some of the other high level speakers included Mrs. Elźbieta Bieńkowska, EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMES, Mr. Fabricio W.Luciolli, President of the Atlantic Treaty Association, Mr. Giedrimas Jeglinskas, Vice-Minister of the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence, Mr. Chris Lombardi, Vice-President, Raytheon European Business Development, Mr. Jerzy Kwienciński, Secretary of State of the Polish Ministry of Economics and Development, Mr. Gunnar Muent, Director of the Innovation and Competitiveness for European Investment Bank.

One of the most interesting intervention were the closing remarks presented by Commissioner Bieńkowska, as it was also confirmed by the room still full with participants in late afternoon during her speech it was clear that many where waiting to hear her insight. Mrs. Bieńkowska raised many important points: she underlined that even though the defence cooperation has not often been a topic of discussion at the EU level, it is clear that latest developments both in national and international geopolitical security situation create a necessity for defence cooperation to be one of the main areas of the EU cooperation policies.

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[Mrs. Bieńkowska, EU Commissioner. Photo by Mrs. Signe Martisune © Signe Martisune]

The focus of the Commissioner’s speech was the recent launch of the European Defence Fund (EDF) (June, 2017). She clarified the goals set forward for the creation of the Fund which are focused around following general lines “to coordinate, supplement and amplify national investments in defence research, in the development of prototypes and in the acquisition of defence equipment and technology”1. Mrs. Bieńkowska underlined the common objective for the EDF is to ensure that funds of the European Union in the field of security research and development are allocated to European companies, therefore one of the key-criterion for EDF projects is to have at least 2 Member States, and at least 3 companies participating.

Another important issue regarding EU Defence funding is the need to support SMEs and to ensure that these companies have access to the market. It is clear that in the field of defence the main players are bigger national and international consortia; therefore the focus needs to be on properly implementing guidelines to facilitate access to the market for the SMEs.

In conclusion, the overall feeling of the Summit was very enthusiastic and positive with many participants expressing the need to continue debates and information exchange regarding the topics addressed during panel discussions. Additionally all the stakeholders need to be involved to closely follow-up the development of the EDF, representing an absolute novelty of the EU policies.

DATE: 05.01.2018

By Mrs. Signe Martišūne

BASE Executive Director - http://www.base.org.lv

Private home page: https://smartbsolutions.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @smartbsolutions

1 For more details on the European Defence Fund visit: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-1508_en.htm