EU defence ministers today took a number of key decisions to push forward the EU security and defence agenda, at a meeting chaired by High Representative Federica Mogherini.
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"Today, the European Union affirmed very strongly and together that it is committed to strengthen security and defence work, as European Union, enhancing our ability to act as a security provider worldwide, our global strategic role as our partners in the world and our citizens expect, and our capacity to act autonomously when and where necessary and with partners wherever it is possible," Mogherini said after the meeting.
In a set of Council Conclusions, ministers backed a Military Planning and Conduct Capability within the European Union Military Staff in Brussels that will assume responsibilities at the strategic level for the operational planning and conduct of the European Union’s non-executive military missions that include the three EU Training Missions deployed in Central African Republic, Mali and Somalia.
They also agreed to deepen cooperation with a number of international organisations including the UN, NATO, the African Union, the League of Arab States, the OSCE, and ASEAN and to strengthen cooperation with the EU's neighbours on training and capacity-building, and building resilience in third countries.
"We took also very major steps, I would say, on two other elements. One is the decision to strengthen the EU’s rapid response instruments, including the EU Battlegroups. We have them for 10 years, they were never deployed; this is mainly due to difficulties in the financial mechanism. The Council decided to overcome these difficulties and look in the coming months at the review of the Athena mechanism for the Battlegroups, ensuring rapid financing by reviewing the necessary arrangements, in view of having an effective deployment of the battlegroups," Mogherini said.
Ministers also agreed a governance mechanism which should allow them to push forward on Permanent Structured Cooperation, under which groups of countries which wish to take their cooperation to the next step are able to do so. "The Council has agreed this ambitious but also very pragmatic way of moving forward; so the governance of PESCO was agreed... Obviously this does not mean that we launch the Permanent Structured Cooperation now, but this means that Member States agreed on the governance that needed to be developed."
The Ministers also agreed on the modalities of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence, while the Commission briefed them on the ongoing work on the European Defence Action Plan and European Defence Fund.
Finally, the ministers discussed with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg the ongoing implementation of the 42 concrete actions in seven different ares of cooperation, stemming from the EU-NATO Joint Declaration, and met with interior ministers on ways to counter terrorism.