PESCO: EU Paves Way to Defense Union
(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; posted Nov 13, 2017)
The majority of EU nations have committed to a joint defense cooperation, focusing on military operations and investments. Europe is looking to cement unity, especially since Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

Defense and foreign ministers from 23 European Union countries signed up to a plan to establish the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which will allow countries to cooperate more closely on security operations and building up military capability.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini described the signing of PESCO as a "historic moment in European defense."

The decision to launch PESCO indicates Europe's move towards self-sufficiency in defense matters instead of relying solely on NATO. The EU, however, also stressed that PESCO is complimentary to NATO, in which 22 of the EU's 28 countries are members.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the launch, saying that he saw it as an opportunity to "strengthen the European pillar within NATO." Stoltenberg had previously urged European nations to increase their defense budget.

"I'm a firm believer of stronger European defense, so I welcome PESCO because I believe that it can strengthen European defense, which is good for Europe but also good for NATO," Stoltenberg said.

Who is involved?

Under the scheme, EU member states will be able to develop greater military capabilities, invest in joint projects and increase the readiness of their troops.

-- Participation in PESCO is voluntary for all of the EU's 28 member states
-- 23 countries have signed up to the plan
-- Ireland, Portugal and Malta are still undecided whether or not to join
-- Denmark, which has a special opt-out status, is not expected to participate
-- The United Kingdom, which is scheduled to leave the EU in 2019, is not part of PESCO either but can still choose to take part in certain aspects even after Brexit - if that participation is of benefit to the entire EU.
-- Those who didn't sign initially can still join at a later date and countries not living up to their expected commitments could be kicked out of the group.

With the notification signed, a final decision to launch the defense cooperation framework is expected in December.

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Defence Cooperation: 23 Member States Sign Joint Notification on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO)
(Source: Council of Europe; issued Nov 13, 2017)
On 13 November 2017, ministers from 23 member states signed a joint notification on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and handed it over to the High Representative and the Council.

The possibility of the Permanent Structured Cooperation in the area of defence security and defence policy was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. It foresees 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 member states who signed the joint notification are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. It is possible for other member states to join at a later stage.

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.

Joint notification by member states to the High Representative and to the Council on PESCO (13 PDF pages)

Next steps

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.

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Defence: European Commission Welcomes Steps Towards Permanent Structured Cooperation
(Source: European Commission; issued Nov 13, 2017)
BRUSSELS --- The Commission strongly welcomes the move by 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 towards launching Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on defence, by signing today a joint notification and handing it over to High Representative Federica Mogherini.

President Juncker has been calling for a stronger Europe on security and defence since his election campaign, saying in April 2014: "I believe that we need to take more seriously the provisions of the existing Treaty that allow those European countries who want to do this to progressively build up a common European defence. I know this is not for everybody. But those countries that would like to go ahead should be encouraged to do so. Pooling defence capacities in Europe makes perfect economic sense."

This same ambition was set out in his three-point plan for foreign policy, which was incorporated in the Political Guidelines – the Juncker Commission's political contract with the European Parliament and the European Council.

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 European Defence Fund launched by the Commission in June 2017 will boost collaborative projects in the area of defence research, prototype development and join acquisition of capabilities. Today's joint notification marks an important step towards creating a fully-fledged European Defence Union by 2025, as President Juncker stressed in his State of the Union address on 13 September 2017.

For more information on PESCO, please see a factsheet here.

See here the Strategic Note: In Defence of Europe by the European Political Strategy Centre.


(EDITOR’S NOTE: Two options had been tabled to launch PESCO: one called for a small number of core partners willing to move forward very quickly, and a second one for the largest possible number of participants moving together.
The second was selected, ensuring that the PESCO will advance at a snail’s pace.)


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