Biggest leap in EU defence
Joint pact to tighten cooperation and prevent duplication in show of post-Brexit unity
10 November, 2017
At least 20 members of the EU will sign up on 13 November in Brussels to a new defence pact, heavily promoted by France and Germany, to fund and develop joint military hardware in a show of unity following Britain’s decision to quit the bloc. After years of spending cutbacks in Europe and a heavy reliance on the US through the NATO alliance, France and Germany hope the accord will tie nations into tighter defence collaboration covering troops and weapons, Reuters reports.
The Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, could be the biggest leap in EU defence policy in decades and may go some way to matching the bloc’s economic and trade prowess with a more powerful military. But differences remain between Paris and Berlin over what countries legally bound by the pact should do, EU diplomats said.
France wanted a core group of governments to bring money and military assets to PESCO as well as a willingness to intervene abroad. Germany has sought to broaden the pact to make it inclusive, which some experts say could make it less effective.
“This has to bring about a higher level of commitment if it is going to work,” said an EU official, describing PESCO as a ‘defence marriage’.
So far France, Germany, Italy, Spain and around 16 other EU countries have pledged to join the pact, which could formally be launched when EU leaders meet in December. Some other members, including Denmark, Portugal and Malta, have yet to commit themselves publicly. But it was clear that Britain, which intends to leave the bloc would not participate, officials said. The initiative won momentum from French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a European intervention force in September and US President Donald Trump’s insistence that Europe do more for its security.
Proposals for PESCO include work on a European medical command and a network of logistic hubs in Europe, creation of a European Crisis Response centre, and joint training of military officers. One of the goals is to reduce the number of weapons systems and prevent duplication to save money and improve joint operations. It could also serve as an umbrella for projects such as a Franco-German initiative to design a new fighter jet, and existing bilateral military cooperation agreements, such as the close ties between Germany and the Netherlands.