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We had an excellent joint session of Foreign and Defence Ministers of the European Union today. Let me tell you with a certain pride that six months ago we started to work on strengthening our common work on security and defence in the European Union and exactly six months after - today - we have taken the first operational decisions. That was done unanimously, by consensus, at 28, with a lot of support, thanks to a very constructive and active approach of all Member States. And this in one of the fields where traditionally we have had in the history of the European Union more divisive steps. It is since the 1950s that we are struggling in the defence field and today I think we are concretely and very proactively advancing there.
Today we decided to establish a military planning and conduct capability which will command the EU non-executive military missions. We have three of them currently. It will be established within the European Union military staff. We also decided to create a civilian/military joint support coordination cell that will increase synergies between our civilian and military work. You know this is the highlight, the specific feature of the European Union action on the ground, matching whenever and wherever it is needed, and however it is needed, civilian and military work on security. So, this coordination cell will help us creating and highlighting even more the synergies on the ground.
And we have decided to continue in the coming weeks, in the same very proactive and concrete manner, our work on a certain number of issues that are going to be very important for our work ahead. First of all, on Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in the field of defence, you know this is a provision of the treaties and it has never been used. We have decided to continue the work now in the coming weeks on a precise criteria, precise commitments and precise programmes that will prepare the basis for Member States to take a decision on this in the coming months. I believe that it is possible to have a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on defence, based on inclusiveness and on a modular approach, based on concrete projects that bring added-value to the work of the Europeans on defence.
We have decided also to continue our work together in the coming weeks on a Coordinated Annual Revue on Defence (CARD) that will help Member States to work better together when it comes to defence budgets and together with the Vice-President of the [European] Commission [Jyrki] Katainen, the first time an economic Vice-President of the Commission participates at the works of Defence and Foreign ministers. We have worked on the establishment of this European Defence Action Plan, including the defence fund. This will be a way to support, with incentives, a better way for Member States to spend together better.
I always say these two numbers, on the one side, Europeans invest 50 per cent of the United States, but our output is 15 per cent which means we can work on the economy of scale and improve the way we spend together better. And it is only 20 per cent of the investments in Europe that are done together and are not national. So there is space for improving this economy of scale, improving the way in which Europeans spend on defence and invest in defence. This will also help the transatlantic burden-sharing, this will also help NATO and all this work is consistent with intensifying our cooperation with NATO.
We also discussed other strands of work we will continue to bring forward in the coming weeks, like the use of the battlegroups. Or some issues we have to review to make sure these are instruments we can effectively use: how to increase and improve information sharing but also to strengthen our civilian missions.
I will bring all this work, the decisions taken and the preparations for further steps to be decided, to the European Council, to Heads of state or Government on Thursday and again in the Foreign Affairs Council later in spring. I believe that this entire work will be one of the fields where the European Union will have the possibility to advance very significantly even further in the coming months.
Q: When will the centre become operational?
In the coming weeks. We have agreed that, obviously with the help of all the Member States, this will be operational within the coming weeks. It will have about 30 members of staff. But as you see, we are running fast, we are going onwards united, and really, I am very, very satisfied with the work we have done collectively. This is also thanks to the Ministers of Defence and of Foreign Affairs, but also the excellent team and the excellent staff we have here in Brussels, dedicated, professional, both military and civilians, who have made this possible, because it is a lot of serious dedicated work and the fact that in six months, we have managed to arrive to operational decisions all together, smoothly, constructively, is very encouraging for the future of Europe.
Q: How many countries have showed appetite for EU PESCO [Permanent Structured Cooperation] at the moment?
At the moment, I wouldn't say that I have seen any not showing appetite but now, as I said, for us it is a matter of getting concrete - getting concrete on what exactly this implies in terms of commitments, in terms of projects, which are the projects that bring an added value. And this preparatory work now will become intense, so that in the coming months we will be I think ready to offer to the Member States the possibility to launch Permanent Structured Cooperation - if they want so. I hope that for the Council in June this preparatory work can be completed.
But I am very encouraged by the fact that today we take very important decisions - only, again, five, six months ago this would have been quite impossible to imagine and this shows that European decision-makers have understood that security is a priority for Europeans, for European citizens. The global environment invites us to take more responsibility and the way to take more responsibility in defence and security is through the European Union.