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23 EU states launch new era for European defence cooperation

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23 EU states launch new era for European defence cooperation

Federica Mogherini - Photo EU Council

(BRUSSELS) - 23 EU Member States - though not the United Kingdom - signed an historic pact Monday to cooperate more closely in future on security and defence in the wake of Brexit and Russian aggression.

The countires - Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden - today signed the joint notification of the launch of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on defence, and handed it over to the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The possibility of the Permanent Structured Cooperation in the area of defence security and defence policy was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. It foresaw the possibility of a number of EU member states working more closely together in the area of security and defence. This permanent framework for defence cooperation will allow those member states willing and able to jointly develop defence capabilities, invest in shared projects, or enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces.

The European Union has used the rise in threats to Europe's security, from Islamic militants to Russian aggression in Crimea and Ukraine, as well as the possibility of Brexit, as an opportunity to finally launch this new stage in European defence cooperation.

Ms Mogherini, who has received the notification letter from 23 Member States - more than 20, said she expected the next foreign affairs council to formally adopt this decision.

"This will allow us to prepare Council decisions already in the next weeks," she said, adding that Member States had already presented more than 50 concrete projects, both in the field of capabilities and in the field of operations.

It is possible for other Member States to join at a later stage. British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the UK was "supportive" of the new plans for European defence and security cooperation. Britain has been accused of using defence as a bargaining point in the stuttering Brexit negotiations.

PESCO is a Treaty-based framework and process to deepen defence cooperation amongst EU Member States who are capable and willing to do so. It will enable Member States to jointly develop defence capabilities, invest in shared projects and enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces. Following today's notification the Council should adopt a formal decision establishing PESCO by the end of the year, with the first projects to be identified in parallel.

The joint notification is the first formal step to set up the PESCO. It sets out:

  • the principles of the PESCO, in particular underlining that the "PESCO is an ambitious, binding and inclusive European legal framework for investments in the security and defence of the EU's territory and its citizens"
  • the list of "ambitious and more binding common commitments" the member states have agreed to undertake, including "regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms in order to reach agreed objectives",
  • proposals on PESCO governance, with an overarching level maintaining the coherence and the ambition of the PESCO, complemented by specific governance procedures at projects level.

The Council now has to adopt a decision establishing PESCO by reinforced qualified majority. This could take place at the next Foreign Affairs Council (11 December).

A first list of projects to be undertaken within the PESCO framework should be agreed by the participating member states once PESCO has been established. These could cover areas such as training, capabilities development and operational readiness in the field of defence.

Joint notification by member states to the High Representative and to the Council on PESCO

EU cooperation on security and defence

Permanent structured cooperation factsheet

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