PESCO: EU paves way to defense union

Frederick Owens
November 14, 2017

German Foreign Minister Gabriel lauded the agreement as "a great step toward self-sufficiency and strengthening the European Union's security and defense policy - really a milestone in European development". Ireland, Portugal and Malta are still in the process of deciding whether to join.

A total of 23 EU-member states have joined PESCO so far, with membership optional. Its annex stated that "a long term vision of PESCO could be to arrive at a coherent full spectrum force package - in complementarity with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which will continue to be the cornerstone of collective defense for its members".

The European Union has moved toward closer defense ties with more than 20 member states committing to deepen cooperation and improve coordination in the development of military hardware.

The European Council has agreed in June to establish PESCO and the EU leaders discussed the progress in preparing during last summit.

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.

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He explained that PESCO's structure will be more on a defence level.

"The real problem is not how much we spend, it is the fact that we spend in a fragmented manner", Mogherini said. Germany wanted the pact to include as many countries as possible while France wanted it to be as militarily ambitious as possible, they said. "I think that European cooperation on defense questions will rather contribute to saving money - we have about 50 percent of the United States' defense spending in Europe, but only 15 percent of the efficiency".

Also, warnings by U.S. President Donald Trump that European allies must pay more towards their security seemed to have propelled the project forward. 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 military alliance does not have at its disposal.

Participants have signed up to a list of commitments which "include increasing the share of expenditure allocated to defense research and technology with a view to nearing the 2 percent of total defense spending" and to "regularly increasing defense budgets in real terms".

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