European Union External Action

EU-NATO cooperation - Factsheet

Bruxelles, 04/06/2018 - 10:00, UNIQUE ID: 170616_1

In the current strategic environment, cooperation between the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is essential. The two organisations are faced with unprecedented challenges emanating from the South and the East. The security of EU and NATO are inter-connected: not only are 22 EU Member States also NATO Allies; together, they can also mobilise a broad range of tools and make the most efficient use of resources to address those challenges and enhance the security of their citizens. EU-NATO cooperation constitutes an integral pillar of the EU’s work aimed at strengthening European security and defence, as part of the implementation of the EU Global Strategy. It also contributes to Trans-Atlantic burden sharing. A stronger EU and a stronger NATO are mutually reinforcing.

EU-NATO cooperation constitutes an integral pillar of the EU’s work aimed at strengthening European security and defence, as part of the implementation of the EU Global Strategy. It also contributes to Trans-Atlantic burden sharing. A stronger EU and a stronger NATO are mutually reinforcing.

EU-NATO cooperation

On 8 July 2016, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, together with the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization signed a Joint Declaration in Warsaw with a view to giving new impetus and new substance to the EU-NATO strategic partnership. It outlined seven concrete areas where cooperation between the two organisations should be enhanced: 1. countering hybrid threats; 2. operational cooperation including at sea and on migration; 3. cyber security and defence; 4. defence capabilities; 5. defence industry and research; 6. exercises; 7. supporting Eastern and Southern partners' capacity-building efforts.

On the basis of the mandate by the Joint Declaration, a common set of proposals was endorsed by the EU and NATO Councils on 6 December 2016. The set includes 42 concrete actions for the implementation of the Joint Declaration in all seven areas of cooperation with a clear focus on deliverables. A follow-on mechanism ensures that progress is monitored and reviewed on a regular basis.

With a view to consolidating progress and ensuring further advances in all areas, on 5 December 2017, the two Councils endorsed a common set of new proposals including further 32 actions. They also address new topics, such as counter-terrorism, military mobility and women, peace and security.

A new era of interaction

As a direct follow-up to the Joint Declaration, the two organisations are opening their activities to each other to gain better knowledge and understanding of each other. Cooperation is now the established norm and daily practice, fully corresponding to the new level of ambition referred to in the Joint Declaration, providing a solid basis for further enhanced interaction.


The High Representative/Vice President/Head of Agency and the Secretary General of NATO submitted their first and second progress reports on the implementation of the 42 actions to the respective Councils in June and December 2017. The third progress report submitted in June 2018  drew on the main achievements of EU-NATO cooperation – also in view of the upcoming meeting of the European Council on 28-29 June and the NATO Summit on 11-12 July – and highlighted the added value of EU-NATO cooperation in different areas aimed at strengthening the security of citizens.

Hybrid threats

Countering hybrid threats remains of key importance with 20 out of the 74 current proposals for cooperation focused in this area. The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats effectively contributes to strengthening EU-NATO cooperation in this area. EU and NATO personnel have participated in the Centre's activities, inter alia attending workshops, seminars and exercises aimed at enhancing the understanding of hybrid threats.

Operational cooperation including maritime issues

EU and NATO staffs are engaged in exploring modalities to enhance coordination, complementarity and cooperation in the maritime domain. Staffs regularly exchange ideas in the meetings of the mechanism on Shared Awareness and De-Confliction in the Mediterranean (SHADE MED) ,as the main forum for sharing information and coordination of efforts.

Cyber security

Active interaction at staff level is proceeding in the field of cyber on concepts and doctrines, existing and planned training and education courses, threat indicators, ad-hoc exchanges of threat alerts and assessments, cross-briefings, including on the cyber aspects of crisis management and regular meetings.

 Defence Capabilities

Efforts continue to ensure coherence of output between the planning instruments and processes, namely the EU Capability Development Plan, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and respective NATO processes such as the NATO Defence Planning Process (NDPP) and the Partnership for Peace Planning and Review Process.

NATO and EU staffs are working together to ensure coherence and synergies between NATO and EU efforts to improve military mobility.

Defence industry and research

EU and NATO staffs continue the dialogue on industry matters, which includes regular updates on related NATO and EU activities. Special focus lies for example on Small and Medium Enterprises' access to defence supply chain and innovation, or industry engagement in specific areas.


The next parallel and coordinated exercises (with the EU's exercise in the lead) are to take place in November 2018. The exercises will have the same overarching objective - synchronising the two organisations' crisis response activities in particular in a hybrid context.   

Supporting partners' capacity building

Assisting partners in building their capacities and fostering resilience, in particular in the Western Balkans, and in our Eastern and Southern neighbourhood is a common objective. Information exchange, including informal staff-to-staff political consultations on the three pilot countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Moldova and Tunisia) has intensified.

The second progress report of December 2017 highlighted a financing decision by the EU to allocate €2 million for 2017 as a contribution to the NATO Building Integrity Programme, which aims at reducing the risk of corruption and promoting good governance in the defence and security sector. This financing is pending completion of a six-pillar assessment, due to be completed by the end of June 2018.

Strengthening political dialogue between EU and NATO

The established practice of mutual invitations to relevant ministerial meetings continued. Reciprocal cross-briefings on issues of mutual interest have become more frequent.

Next steps

The next common progress report on implementation will be submitted to the two Councils in June 2019.

EU-NATO cooperation continues to take place on the basis of key guiding principles: openness, transparency, inclusiveness and reciprocity, in full respect of the decision-making autonomy and procedures of both organisations without prejudice to the specific character of the security and defence policy of any Member State.