Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva and Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov signed on November 13 a joint notification from 23 European Union countries to enable joint development of defence capabilities, investment in shared projects and enhancement of the operational readiness of their armed forces.
The structure is known as “Permanent Structured Cooperation” (Pesco) and envisages pooling resources while working together to develop new-generation weapons.
The possibility of Pesco 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 European External Action Service said.
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 inclusiveEuropean legal framework for investments in the security and defence of the EU’s territory and its citizens”
It also sets out 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”, and puts forward 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 European Commission said on November 13 that it “strongly welcomes” the move.
The Commission said that EC President Jean-Claude Juncker has been calling for a stronger Europe on security and defence since his election campaign, saying in April 2014: “I believe that we need to take more seriously the provisions of the existing Treaty that allow those European countries who want to do this to progressively build up a common European defence.
“I know this is not for everybody. But those countries that would like to go ahead should be encouraged to do so. Pooling defence capacities in Europe makes perfect economic sense.”
This same ambition was set out in Juncker’s three-point plan for foreign policy, which was incorporated in the Political Guidelines – the Juncker Commission’s political contract with the European Parliament and the European Council.
Following today’s notification the Council should adopt a formal decision establishing Pesco by the end of the year, with the first projects to be identified in parallel.
The European Defence Fund launched by the Commission in June 2017 will boost collaborative projects in the area of defence research, prototype development and join acquisition of capabilities.
“Today’s joint notification marks an important step towards creating a fully-fledged European Defence Union by 2025, as President Juncker stressed in his State of the Union address on September 13 2017,” the EC said.