The European Council adopted the decision to establish a European Union defense pact, and the 25 participating EU states will start work on a series of joint-defense projects next year.
On Monday the EU moved closer toward establishing a European army, after the European Council adopted the defense and security cooperation network which was first set out in the Lisbon Treaty.
PESCO will allow member states to pool military capabilities, invest in mutual projects and direct funds to their respective armed forces.
The Commission noted in a press release that it will be funded in part by the European Defense Fund for the acquisition of new defense equipment and technology, as well as to finance grants for research projects.
European defense ministers from 23 member states had initially signed a joint notification on PESCO on November 13, before it was handed over for review to the European Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini.
A few member states have remained on the fence. While Portugal and Ireland eventually announced their decision to join, the countries opting out of the agreement are Malta, Denmark – which has special opt-out status – and the UK which is withdrawing from the bloc in March 2019 as a result of the Brexit referendum.
The “historic” move was hailed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Twitter as: “She is awake, the Sleeping Beauty of the Lisbon Treaty: Permanent Structured Cooperation is happening.”
“I welcome the steps taken today by member states to lay the foundations of a European Defence Union. Europe cannot and should not outsource our security and defense,” Juncker said.
Some 17 joint PESCO projects have already been earmarked, including the establishing a pan-European military training center, improving capability development and introducing common standards for military radio communication.
Germany will take the lead on four projects: the creation of a pan-European medical unit, a logistics hub, a center for training missions and an initiative to build up faster crisis response forces.
These projects are expected to be formally adopted by early next year, and participating countries are invited to propose additional programs.
In the Joint Notification on PESCO, which 23 EU governments signed it is clearly stated that PESCO will function “in complementarity with NATO, which will continue to be the cornerstone of collective defence for its members. The Notification also states that “enhanced defence capabilities of EU Member States will also benefit NATO. They will strengthen the European pillar within the Alliance and respond to repeated demands for stronger transatlantic burden sharing.”
This is in response to the US President Trump’s demand for a greater contribution by Europeans to NATO.
The Joint Notification refers to the interoperability of the armed forces of the co-signatory states and the “commitment to agree on common technical and operational standards of forces acknowledging that they need to ensure interoperability with NATO.”