European Union members ink landmark defense agreement

Violet Powell
November 14, 2017

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini hailed the decision as a "historic moment in European defense".

All EU countries except Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Malta and Portugal said Monday they would sign up to the pact, which will be officially launched at a summit next month. It foresees the possibility of a number of European Union member states working more closely together in the area of security and defense. The EU stresses that PESCO is complimentary to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, in which 22 of the EU's 28 countries are members.

Europe vowed to turn a new page on security cooperation on Monday as 23 states came together to sign a mutual defence pact created to transform military operations.

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.

There are strong indications that British officials are pushing hard for the United Kingdom to be included in the Permanent Structured Cooperation process, or PESCO, which is key to the Defence Union plans set out by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker recently.

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"We are agreeing on the future cooperation on security and defence issues ... it's really a milestone in European development", he added. "The real problem is not how much we spend, it is the fact that we spend in a fragmented manner".

Defense and foreign ministers from 23 European Union countries signed up to a plan to establish the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which will allow countries to cooperate more closely on security operations and building up military capability.

EU diplomats told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that Britain's decision a year ago to quit the bloc and U.S. President Donald Trump's push for European allies to raise their contributions to the defense of the continent have prompted EU members to act.

Attendees pose for group photos after signing a pact on joint defense cooperation at the headquarters of the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, Nov. 13, 2017.

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.

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