PESCO: EU paves way to defense union

Minister of Defence Jüri Luik and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the pact - which is expected to enable EU states to develop joint military capability and hardware - marked a "historic moment" and was "something big" in European defence, with 23 of the bloc's 28 member states engaging both on "capabilities" and "operational steps".

The United Kingdom, which is scheduled to leave the European Union in 2019, is not part of PESCO either but can still choose to take part in certain aspects even after Brexit - if that participation is of benefit to the entire EU.

According to a statement released by Mogherini's foreign affairs council, the pact on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) foresees the possibility of a number of European Union member states working more closely together in the area of security and defense.

He added that PESCO can lead to increased defence spending, new European capabilities and also greater burden sharing within North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

By working together on joint projects, nations hope to use their combined spending power to overcome capability gaps, jointly buying equipment like air transporters or drones.

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Defence and foreign ministers from the 23 countries on Monday signed a notification of their intention to establish the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which allows countries to cooperate more closely on security operations and building up military capability.

Germany wanted as many countries as possible to sign up but wants to keep the focus on more modest schemes.

Former UKIP leader Diane James MEP has suggested that, "as the EU Common Defence Fund is being launched way before Brexit, the UK will be providing 13 per cent of the cash" - although this is not yet fully confirmed. This has led to unease by European allies that the United States was not committed to the alliance's mutual defence pact. 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.

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

"I'm a firm believer of stronger European defence, so I welcome PESCO because I believe that it can strengthen European defence, which is good for Europe but also good for NATO", Stoltenberg said.

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