European Union External Action

EU Security and Defence package

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The defence package is composed of three major pillars:

  1. new political goals and ambitions for Europeans to take more responsibility for their own security and defence,
  2. new financial tools to help Member States and the European defence industry to develop defence capabilities ("European Defence Action Plan") and,
  3. a set of concrete actions to follow up on the EU-NATO Joint Declaration which identified areas of cooperation.

Together, these  three elements constitute a comprehensive package to boost security of the Union and its citizens.

At a time when terrorism, hybrid threats, climate change, economic volatility and energy insecurity lead to violent conflicts around the globe, close European cooperation on defence and security is more important than ever. EU Member States agreed on the need for a new and higher Level of Ambition in the area of security and defence and acknowledged that enhanced coordination and cooperation among themselves but also with other partners are key requirements in this respect.

High Representative Federica Mogherini stated "In today’s world size matters and only as European Union we have the power, the capacity, the impact to face the security challenges we have in front of us, be it regional security challenges or global ones.”

The different tools and mechanism included in the defence package are based on three interlinked decisions taken by the EU and its Member States on security and defence. These political commitments are turning the demand for more common security as identified in the Global Strategy into concrete actions.    

1. Implementation Plan on Security and Defence: A new Level of Ambition for security and defence

On 14 November 2016, ministers agreed on a new level of ambition for the EU’s security and defence policy and provided guidance on the actions needed to fulfil these ambitions.

Those actions as outlined in the Implementation Plan, are built around the three core priorities derived from the Global Strategy:

  • responding to external conflicts and crises when they arise,
  • building the capacities of partners,
  • protecting the European Union and its citizens through external action.

These three priorities are based on the acknowledgment that EU Member States need to cooperate more in the field of defence. At the same time, the EU cannot meet the current security challenges with only one instrument, be it military or otherwise. In this context, it is clear that  civilian as well as military capabilities are needed to enable the EU and its Member States to respond more comprehensively, more rapidly and more effectively to crises, in particular in the EU's neighbourhood where instability has a direct effect on our internal security. This also justifies the need for the EU to continue building resilience of partner countries, which thereby also constitutes an investment in the security of the EU and its citizens. For the EU, strengthening the capacity of   neighbours and partners is a way to create the conditions for sustainable stability and thereby prevent new conflicts.

Based on these three priorities, the concrete actions under implementation range from a new command centre for military training missions, ensuring more rapid civilian but also military actions on the ground, to the activation of a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which will deepen defence cooperation among Member States through binding commitments.

2. European Defence Action Plan: establishing new financial tools to help Member States develop defence capabilities

The European Defence Action Plan was adopted by the European Commission on 30 November 2016. It comprises of a European Defence Fund and other actions to help Member States boost research and spend more efficiently on joint defence capabilities, thus fostering a competitive and innovative defence industrial base and contributing to enhance European citizens' security. The preservation of excellence in the field of defence research and technology is also a  critical condition for  European security and autonomy. 

3. Taking EU-NATO cooperation to a new level

Stemming from the Warsaw Joint Declaration, EU and NATO are implementing at full speed the 42 action points agreed in December 2016. The actions fall under the following 7 areas of cooperation:

  1. countering hybrid threats,
  2. operational cooperation including maritime issues,
  3. cyber security and defence,
  4. defence capabilities,
  5. defence industry and research,
  6. parallel and coordinated exercises
  7. defence and security capacity building 

EU-NATO cooperation is thus taken to a new level, at a moment when facing common challenges together is more important than ever. Nevertheless, EU and NATO remain organisations of a different nature with different mandates and toolboxes. Neither organizations has the full range of tools to address security challenges on its own. Their activities are complementary to each other. A strong EU defence makes NATO stronger and a strong NATO makes in turn European defence stronger.

The first progress report on implementation was submitted by the High Representative Mogherini and NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg in June 2017. It highlighted the new quality of EU-NATO relationship and outlined some key specific actions in implementing the common set of proposals. The next progress report is due in December; it will also include new proposals aimed at further strengthening cooperation.

EU-NATO cooperation constitutes an integral pillar of the EU’s work aimed at strengthening European security and defence

Work on implementing the security and defence package has been progressing at a fast pace. Be it the envisaged activation of a permanent Structured Cooperation by the end of the year, the removal of financial obstacles to the deployment of the EU Battlegroups, or the a mechanism which will facilitate regular and systematic sharing of information between Member States on their defence planning (Coordinated Annual Review on Defence), the EU and its Member States have made unprecedented progress in the field of security and defence.  

High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: "We are moving fast and forward on security in the European Union. We have come a long way in less than one year and we are determined to keep this pace."

Fact sheets

More on EU – NATO Cooperation


Press releases and statements on Security and Defence