European Union External Action

Defence: 23 EU member states sign up for permanent structured cooperation

Permanent Structured Cooperation, Defence

On 13 November 2017 ministers from 23 member states signed a joint notification on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on defence and handed it over to EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, and the Council.

At the signing ceremony Federica Mogherini said: "This is a historic moment in European defence, which just one year ago, most of us and most of the rest of the world considered impossible to achieve." "Today 23 Member States are engaging to work jointly both on defence capabilities and operational steps, and more may wish to join at a later stage."

The High Representative said she would work to ensure the Council decision launching the PESCO by the end of the year.

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.

The Council now has now 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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