What is the EU defence union PESCO?

Sertan Sanderson

With 23 of the EU’s current 28 member states joining the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), there seems to be a great deal of consensus among member states but a few remain on the fence. The new defence union is expected to address immediate threats without having to rely on NATO for all of the EU’s defence needs.

High expectations

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had been campaining for PESCO for several years. He expects the new military pact to deliver a “European Security and Defence Union (which) will help protect our Union, which is exactly what EU citizens expect.”

A ‘new era’ for European security

EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Chief Federica Mogherini welcomed the establishment of PESCO as the dawn of a “new era.” Mogherini further described the initiative as “an inclusive framework to facilitate the joint investments and projects that we so much need to strengthen the ability of the European Union to be a credible security provider for its citizens and globally.”

Franco-German foundations

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen are among the chief supporters of the PESCO defense union. Von der Leyen stressed that with the United States taking a critical stance on NATO, launching Europe’s very own defense initiative was “important – especially after the election of the US President,” referring to Presiden Donald Trump.

A new direction

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (pictured left) welcomed the launch of PESCO in the face of those fears over US President Donald Trump’s commitment to the transatlantic defense alliance. Stoltenberg said that PESCO will “strengthen the European pillar within NATO” adding that it will be “good for NATO” as well.

Left outside

The majority of EU states signed up to PESCO. Three states are still mulling over it, Denmark has opted out for the time being, and the UK is expected to reject the proposal, as it is set to leave the EU by 2019. Prime Minister Theresa May is free to join PESCO at a later date however – even after Brexit – if the terms of that cooperation would benefit the entire EU.

EU soldiers?

It is unclear to what extent there will be concrete military cooperation between EU states, as is the case with the EUFOR peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The signing of PESCO initially provides only the framework for expanded collaboration and more efficient spending of military funds.

Three years in the making, the signing of PESCO marks a new chapter in the EU’s self-reliance when it comes to defense. But what does the Permanent Structured Cooperation actually entail?

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