EU Global Strategy

Permanent Structured Cooperation: Remarks by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP plenary on the recommendation concerning the implementation and governance of PESCO

Brussels, 20/10/2020 - 17:27, UNIQUE ID: 201020_10

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Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

Let me thank the rapporteur, Mr [Radosław] Sikorski, and all Members of the European Parliament who have contributed to this recommendation on the implementation and governance of the PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation).

I think it is very timely as the PESCO Strategic Review is about to be finalised in the coming weeks.

I broadly support and share your recommendations. We need to strengthen PESCO’s operational dimension, we need to maintain the European Union’s budgetary ambition in the field of defence, including with regard to the European Defence Fund and Military Mobility, and we need to sustain efforts to ensure coherence among the defence initiatives. There are many of them and we have to make them work together in a coherent way.

You know that PESCO is a key tool for Member States willing to cooperate more in the field of defence within the Union.

It [PESCO] has three main objectives. First, to enhance the European Union’s capacity as an international security actor. Second, to maximise the effectiveness of our spending in defence. And third, and above all, to contribute better to the protection of the population of the countries of destination and, hence, of European Union citizens.

I think that we can be proud of what has been done in such a short timeframe. Because, let us remember that PESCO projects were launched in 2018 and 2019, a couple of years ago. A large-scale capacity project requires between 10 and 25 years to “see the light of day”, whether it is carried out within the framework of PESCO or not. However, 15 PESCO projects could be operational already by 2025, in the cyber domain (the Cyber Rapid Response Teams), in the field of medical support (the European Medical Command) or in the area of land battlefield missile (EU BLOS).

There are other projects, such as those in the anti-missile defence field – the European Patrol Corvette project or the TWISTER project -, will need more time, but they are already producing concrete and valuable results and reinforcing our EU’s and Member States’ military capacity to act and enhance their strategic autonomy.

Today, as you know, everybody is talking about strategic autonomy, but there is a big debate about what it is about and what does it mean. Those are words that everybody use and I know that there are strong differences about what is the meaning of these two words.

But I think that we can already see good coherence between PESCO and the European Defence Fund. In fact, 50% of the actions that will receive funding from the European Defence Industrial Development Programme - the precursor of the European Defence Fund -, are related to PESCO projects. We will keep working together with the Commission, with my friend Commissioner [for Internal Market, Thierry] Breton to ensure such coherence and synergy.

Let me also highlight that 38 out of the 47 PESCO projects are fully coherent with NATO priorities. The need to avoid overlap with NATO priorities is considered when selecting new PESCO projects. The other 9 projects are more of an operational nature, combining existing capabilities, or they specifically contribute to the development of European technological sectors. This is the case for instance of the Project “Material and Components for Technological EU Competitiveness” (MAC-EU), which will develop highly technological electronic components.

At the same time, one of the key goals put forward for the next phase of PESCO is to focus more on operational projects. We should prioritise those projects where Member States stand ready to deploy forces on the ground jointly and deliver concrete and visible results.

I think this is the kind of projects that we have to prioritise to deploy forces on the ground: joint projects with several Member States. This is something visible that shows what it means to have a common security European policy.
I think that PESCO has great potential, it is just starting. Of course, we are still in a learning curve and there is room for improvement, as I stressed in my assessment report this year and also as your recommendation points out.

Honourable members,

The more binding commitments are at the heart of PESCO. We have seen progress in many areas, including on the need to “regularly increase defence budgets”. That said, there is scope for Member States to better fulfil their commitments. Let me give you a couple of examples. First, to provide substantive support to Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations. As I said this should be a priority, to deploy forces on te ground through our missions and operations. And second, to make more systematic use of the EU defence tools in their national planning and decision-making.

Honourable members,

As I stated in my recent letter to EU Defence ministers, the PESCO strategic review should serve to set up clear milestones for the next phase. I can assure you that many topics raised in your recommendation will be reflected in this review.

Wrapping up, this review comes as an opportunity to reaffirm the main political objectives of PESCO for the next five years; to highlight the projects that will deliver concrete results before 2025, and last but not least, to identify concrete incentives that will help Member States to fulfil their commitments, in particular once again when it comes to operational projects.

We will discuss this issue with Defence Ministers in November and I sincerely hope that our Member States will decide on an ambitious next phase for PESCO.

Thank you.

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