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European Defence Agency

This summary has been archived and will not be updated, because the summarised document is no longer in force or does not reflect the current situation.

European Defence Agency

The aim of the European Defence Agency is to develop defence capabilities in the field of crisis management and to promote and enhance European armaments cooperation. It also aims to strengthen the European industrial and technological base, in the field of defence, to create a competitive European defence equipment market and to promote research.


Council Joint Action 2004/551/CFSP of 12 July 2004 on the establishment of the European Defence Agency.


The mission of the European Defence Agency is to support the Council and the Member States in their efforts to improve the European Union’s (EU) defence capabilities in the field of crisis management and to sustain the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

All the EU Member States except Denmark participate in the Agency (under Article 5 of the Protocol on the position of Denmark annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Denmark does not participate in the formulation and implementation of EU decisions and actions which have defence implications). The Agency has its headquarters in Brussels.

The Agency acts under the authority and the political supervision of the Council. Each year, the Council issues guidelines for the work of the Agency, notably with regard to its work programme and the financial framework of the Agency. The Agency reports regularly to the Council on its activities.

Policy areas

The main tasks of the Agency are:

  • to develop defence capabilities in the field of crisis management. The Agency identifies the EU’s future defence capability requirements, coordinates the implementation of the European Capabilities Action Plan and the harmonisation of military requirements, proposes collaborative activities in the operational domain and provides appraisals on financial priorities;
  • to promote and enhance European armaments cooperation. The Agency proposes new multilateral cooperative projects, coordinates existing programmes and manages specific programmes;
  • to strengthen the industrial and technological base in the field of defence and to create a competitive European defence equipment market. The Agency develops relevant policies and strategies in consultation with the Commission and industry, and develops and harmonises relevant rules and regulations;
  • to enhance the effectiveness of European defence research and technology. The Agency promotes and coordinates research aimed at fulfilling future defence capability requirements, in liaison with the Commission.


The Agency has legal personality. Its bodies include the Head of the Agency, the Steering Board and the Chief Executive:

  • the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. S/he is responsible for the Agency's overall organisation and functioning. S/he also ensures that the guidelines issued by the Council and the decisions of the Steering Board are implemented by the Chief Executive, who reports to him;
  • the Steering Board is the Agency’s decision-making body. It is composed of one delegate from each participating Member State and one representative from the Commission. It holds at least two meetings each year at the level of Ministers of Defence. It may also meet in specific compositions (for example, at the level of National Defence Research Directors, National Armaments Directors, etc.). The Head of the Agency convenes and chairs the Steering Board’s meetings;
  • the Agency’s Chief Executive is appointed by the Steering Board on a proposal from the Head of the Agency for a period of three years, which may be extended for two years. The Chief Executive is the head of the Agency’s staff and is responsible for supervising and coordinating the functional units. Furthermore, the Head of the Agency is assisted by two deputies who are also appointed by the Steering Board in accordance with the same procedures.

The Commission is a member of the Steering Board without voting rights and is fully associated with the work of the Agency. The Commission, on behalf of the EU, may also participate in projects or programmes of the Agency.

Ad hoc projects

The Agency offers Member States the option to develop ad hoc projects relating to a specific subject and which bring together only interested Member States. Furthermore, the Chief Executive may authorise third parties to participate in the ad hoc projects. S/he establishes the modalities for cooperation between the Agency and third parties.

Financial rules

The financial provisions applicable to the Agency’s general budget are adopted by the Council, acting unanimously. Revenue consists of miscellaneous revenue and contributions payable by the Member States participating in the Agency.

The Steering Board, on a proposal from the Chief Executive or a Member State, may decide that the Agency may be entrusted by Member States, on a contractual basis, with the administrative and financial management of certain activities within its remit. The Steering Committee may also authorise the Agency to conclude contracts on behalf of certain Member States.

Relations with organisations or third countries

As part of its work programme, the Agency may establish cooperation with third countries. It may also collaborate with international organisations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) or the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR). Cooperation with organisations or third countries relates in particular to:

  • the relations between the Agency and the third party;
  • provisions for consultation on subjects related to the Agency’s work;
  • security matters.


The European Defence Agency was established on the basis of Article 42, Paragraph 3, of the Treaty on European Union. Its missions are detailed in Article 45 of the TEU. The European Agency constitutes a fundamental element of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. It offers a legal and institutional framework for cooperation between the Member States in the field of defence.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Joint Action 2004/551/CFSP



OJ L 245, 17.7.2004

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Joint Action 2008/299/CFSP



OJ L 102, 12.4.2008


Council Decision 2007/643/CFSP of 18 September 2007 on the financial rules of the European Defence Agency and on the procurement rules and rules on financial contributions from the operational budget of the European Defence Agency [Official Journal L 269 of 12.10.2007].

The decision lists and complements the financial provisions for Council Joint Action 2004/551/CFSP in order to ensure, among other things, consistency with the relevant European rules. It specifies the principles applicable to the Agency’s budget and its implementation, as well as the calendar for financial reporting and the annual audit. It also lays down the provisions (scope of application, procedures, sanctions, etc.) and the implementing modalities for the procurement rules and the rules for financial contributions from the operational budget of the European Defence Agency.

See also

Last updated: 11.03.2011