A pragmatic approach to reach common defense in the EU

Employment and Social Affairs

Towards more security for the EU and its citizens: this is the aim of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), as proclaimed by the European Externa Action Service (EEAS). A milestone in reaching a closer cooperation in security and defense, has been marked on 13 November 2017 by the ministers from 23 Member States with the joint notification on Cooperation (PESCO). Just five Member States decided to use the opt-out right not joining this stronger cooperation in defense sector: UK, Portugal, Ireland, Malta and Denmark. It sets out the principles, in particular underlining the binding and inclusive character of the legal framework, a list of binding common commitments the Member States have agreed to undertake, as well as proposals on the PESCO governance. The European Commission hailed the agreement as an “awakening” as a strong instrument to enhance common policies in the sector and to pool together resources also in order to save money doing more. Europe has no common defense strategy, but the fact that nevertheless 23 member states now want to work closer together in military terms is a strong message for the future of the Union. The military capacity of European states is plagued by 20 years of under-investment, fragmentation and national short-sightedness 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. Since several years, EU tried to launch a common defense policy, and nowadays pressure for closer cooperation in security policy is very strong: the actions from Russia at the EU borders and US president Donald Trump isolationism as regard the Mediterranean affairs are important elements to be considered. But also in practical terms there is a growing need to pool together resources: the budgets of the nation states have to save money and billions can be saved with more military cooperation, as shown  by several studies, including by the European Parliamentary Research Service. EU decided to set aside  5.5billion to fund research and development into new military hardware and the joint purchase of new equipment. Thus a big goal is to work together on procurement to avoid the current wasteful situation where 28 member states often buy equipment from 28 different suppliers. And PESCO is closely connected to the new Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) – run by the European Defence Agency, through systematically monitoring of national defence spending plans – and the European Defence Fund (EDF), which will provide financial incentives to foster defence cooperation from research to the development phase, currently being developed under the European Defence Industrial Development Programme.

EU Commission President Jena Claude Juncker announced the creation of a European Defence Fund in 2016 by highlighting that there is a strong economic case for greater cooperation on defence spending amongst EU countries. The lack of cooperation between Member States in the field of defence and security is estimated to cost annually between 25 billion euro and 100 billion euro. 80% of procurement and more than 90% of Research and Technology are run on a national basis. Up to 30% of annual defence expenditures could be saved through pooling of procurement. The fragmented approach when it comes to defence also leads to unnecessary duplication and affects the deployability of defence forces. There are 178 different weapon systems in the EU, compared to 30 in the US. There are 17 different types of main battle tanks in the EU and only one in the US. For certain helicopter programmes, there are more helicopter types in Europe than governments able to buy them. To tackle those bottlenecks at the end of 2016 outlined how a European Defence Fund and other actions can support Member States’ more efficient spending in joint defence capabilities, strengthen security and foster a competitive industrial base.
Thus, it could be highlighted that the new document reached in November by 23 member states who joined PESCO aims to give the EU common defense a pragmatic and not political approach.  And this is further highlighted by the fact that the recently signed document want to ensure that it is not at all an alternative to NATO, but it is just a form of cooperation with States who want to participate in project of strategic importance.

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