Permanent Structured Cooperation [PESCO]
European Union foreign and defense ministers finally put ink to paper 12 NOvember 2017 after years of talk about how their countries must collaborate more closely to better and more efficiently protect citizens. "Permanent structured cooperation," or PESCO, will be the most ambitious tool yet in the EU's security arsenal. EU member states will be able to develop greater military capabilities, invest in joint projects and increase the readiness of their troops. PESCO is about providing an umbrella for such examples of regional defence integration as the Belgian-Dutch Navy or the European Air Transport Command.
The difference between PESCO and other forms of cooperation is the binding nature of the commitments undertaken by participating Member States. However, participation remains voluntary and decision-making will remain in the hands of participating Member States. PESCO is closely connected to the new Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the European Defence Fund (EDF), which is currently being developed under the European Defence Industrial Development Program.
Enhanced coordination, increased investment in defence and cooperation in developing defence capabilities are key requirements to achieve it is the main aim of a Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defence (PESCO), as outlined in the Treaty of the EU, Articles 42(6) and 46, as well as Protocol 10. Through PESCO, Member States increase their effectiveness in addressing security challenges and advancing towards further integrating and strengthening defence cooperation within the EU framework.
The possibility of the Permanent Structured Cooperation 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.
- Participation in PESCO is voluntary for all of the EU's 28 member states
- 23 countries have signed up to the plan
- Ireland, Portugal and Malta are still undecided whether or not to join
- Denmark, which has a special opt-out status, is not expected to participate
- The United Kingdom, which is scheduled to leave the EU 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.
- Those who didn't sign initially can still join at a later date and countries not living up to their expected commitments could be kicked out of the group.
With the notification signed, a final decision to launch the defense cooperation framework was expected in December 2017. In signing a joint notification on PESCO, all EU governments except five — with Poland as a last-minute surprise signatory — pledged to share planning and operations, existing assets and expenses of acquiring major new capabilities such as military air transport, which are sorely lacking in Europe at present. Those nations who chose not to sign, even possibly post-Brexit Britain, still have the opportunity to join.
PESCO is both a permanent framework for closer cooperation and a structured process to gradually deepen defence cooperation within the Union framework. It will be a driver for integration in the field of defence.
Each participating Member State provides a plan for the national contributions and efforts they have agreed to make. These national implementation plans are subject to regular assessment. This is different from the voluntary approach that is currently the rule within the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.
PESCO is designed to make European defence more efficient and to deliver more output by providing enhanced coordination and collaboration in the areas of investment, capability development and operational readiness. Enhanced cooperation in this domain will allow decreasing the number of different weapons' systems in Europe, and therefore strengthen operational cooperation among Member States, increase interoperability and industrial competitiveness.
The armed forces in many EU states lack funding, are too small, and are not adequately equipped. Or – as is the case with the German Bundeswehr – combat-readiness is compromised because they are not prepared for present-day missions and digital warfare. All that is supposed to improve with the defense union, even if not all EU member states want to join.
Every country wants to preserve its own arms industry, if only to not become completely dependent on the US. For some EU states, weapons are veritable export hits. the European Defense Agency – it has accrued a lot of paper over the 13 years since it was founded, but there are no joint tanks in sight.
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