Defence cooperation: 23 European Union member states sign joint notification on PESCO

Nov 14, 2017, 00:29
Defence cooperation: 23 European Union member states sign joint notification on PESCO

The signed notification of intention was submitted to High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. Whereas Ireland, Portugal and Malta have not yet decided whether to join the initiative, Denmark and the United Kingdom are not expected to participate.

Led by France and Germany, the pact pledges 23 European Union member-states to a Common Defence Fund which will see them develop and deploy armed forces together, Reuters reports.

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.

European Union Foreign Ministers, who are meeting on Monday in Brussels, will hear EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini report on her recent lobbying trip to the USA on the Iran nuclear deal.

"We are agreeing on the future cooperation on security and defence issues ... it's really a milestone in European development", he added.

Germany and France have backed plans to reboot EU defence operations, including an announcement in June of a 5.5-billion euro European Defence Fund.

There are strong indications that British officials are pushing hard for the United Kingdom to be included in the Permanent Structured Cooperation process, or PESCO, which is key to the Defence Union plans set out by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker recently. Germany wanted the pact to include as many countries as possible while France wanted it to be as militarily ambitious as possible, they said. Frederic Mauro, a defence expert who advises the European Parliament, said he was "deeply sceptical" about the final form of the pact, describing it as "light years" away from the concept of defence cooperation foreseen in EU treaties. The EU, she said, has tools to fight hybrid warfare - the use of conventional weapons mixed with things like propaganda and cyber-attacks - that the American-led military alliance does not have at its disposal.

The joint notification is the first formal step to set up the PESCO.

The agreement commits countries to "regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms" as well as devoting 20 per cent of defence spending to procurement and 2 per cent to research and technology.

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