European Commission Welcomes First Operational Steps Towards a European Defence Union
(Source: European Commission; issued Dec 11, 2017)
BRUSSELS --- The European Commission welcomes the decision adopted today by the Council formally establishing Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the plans presented by 25 EU Member States to work together on a first set of 17 collaborative defence projects.

President Juncker said: "In June I said it was time to wake up the Sleeping Beauty of the Lisbon Treaty: permanent structured cooperation. Six months later, it is happening. I welcome the steps taken today by Member States to lay the foundations of a European Defence Union. Europe cannot and should not outsource our security and defence. The European Defence Fund that the European Commission proposed will complement these efforts and act as a further incentive for defence cooperation – including potential funding for some of the projects presented today."

Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) is an instrument in the EU Treaty to enable willing Member States to pursue greater cooperation in defence and security. On 13 November, 23 Member States (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) took a first step towards launching Permanent Structured Cooperation on defence by signing a joint notification and handing it over to High Representative Federica Mogherini.

Since then, Ireland and Portugal have also joined, bringing the total number of participating countries to 25. Today, less than a month after the joint notification, the Council adopted a decision formally establishing PESCO. The 25 participating Member States also agreed a Declaration announcing the preparation of first collaborative projects in areas including the setting up of an EU medical command, military mobility, maritime surveillance, and cyber security.

While PESCO is purely intergovernmental, the European Defence Fund proposed by the European Commission in June will create incentives for Member States to cooperate on joint development and the acquisition of defence equipment and technology through co-financing from the EU budget and practical support from the Commission. This could include some of the projects presented by Member States today in the framework of PESCO. Additionally, the Fund fully finances grants for collaborative research projects, with first grant agreements expected to be signed before the end of 2017. Member States are expected to reach agreement on the European Defence Fund at a Council meeting tomorrow.


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.

Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) is a Treaty-based framework and process to deepen defence cooperation amongst EU Member States who are capable and willing to do so. Itenables Member States to jointly develop defence capabilities, invest in shared projects and enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces. These initial projects are expected to be formally adopted by the Council in early 2018.

The European Defence Fund, announced by President Juncker in September 2016 and launched in June 2017, will further boost collaborative projects in the area of defence research, prototype development and join acquisition of capabilities. As part of the European Defence Fund, the Commission presented a legislative proposal for a dedicated defence and industrial development programme. Only collaborative projects will be eligible, and a proportion of the overall budget will be earmarked for projects involving cross-border participation of SMEs.

The Fund seeks to ensure the greatest possible support to the capability pillar of PESCO. In practical terms, the Fund will allow for higher co-financing rates for defence capability projects developed within the structured cooperation, and thereby facilitating and incentivising Member State participation in this framework. However, participation in this structured cooperation will not be a pre-requisite for obtaining support under the programme.

Building on the Commission's White Paper on the Future of Europe, the reflection paper launching a public debate on how the EU at 27 might develop by 2025 in the area of defence, and his speech at the Defence and Security Conference in Prague, in his State of the Union address on 13 September 2017 President Juncker made the case for creating a fully-fledged European Defence Union by 2025.


Twenty-Five EU States Sign PESCO Defense Pact
(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued Dec 11, 2017)
The European Council has adopted the decision to establish a European Union defense pact, known as PESCO. The 25 participating EU states are set to begin working on a series of joint-defense projects next year.

European Union member states on Monday moved ever closer toward establishing a defense union, after the European Council adopted the creation of a new European defense and security cooperation network known as PESCO.

The Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which was first set out in the Lisbon Treaty, will allow member states to jointly develop military capabilities, invest in shared projects and enhance their respective armed forces.

European defense ministers from 23 member states had initially signed a joint notification on PESCO on November 13, and handed it over for review to the EU's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, and the European Council.

On December 7, Portugal and Ireland announced their decision to join, taking the total number of contributing members up to 25. The countries that have chosen not to take part are Malta, Denmark - which has special opt-out status - and the UK (which is set to withdraw from the bloc in March 2019).

Mogherini, described the move as "historic," while European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hailed the move on Twitter, posting: "She is awake, the Sleeping Beauty of the Lisbon Treaty: Permanent Structured Cooperation is happening."

Although PESCO remains an intergovernmental program, the Commission said in a press release that it will prop up the network via its European Defense Fund. Money is set to be assigned for the acquisition of new defense equipment and technology, as well as to finance grants for research projects.

17 joint defense projects

Officials have earmarked 17 joint projects that will fall under the scope of the PESCO agreement. These include establishing a pan-European military training center, improving capability development and even introducing common standards for military radio communication.

Germany is to take the lead on four projects: the creation of a pan-European medical unit, a logistics hub, a center for training missions and an initiative to build up faster crisis response forces.

Those projects are expected to be formally adopted early next year, with participating countries also invited to propose additional programs.


prev next

Official reports See all