In “Europe as a stronger global actor”

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The possibility of a common defence policy is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty's Article 42. In his 2016 State of the Union speech, Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker proposed a number of initiatives in defence, including the creation of a European Defence Fund (EDF), a single headquarters for operations, the implementation of permanent structured cooperation and a move towards common military assets. He insisted on full complementarity with NATO.

On 28 June 2016 the HR/VP Federica Mogherini presented the global strategy for the EU’s foreign and security policy (EUGS). On 15 November 2016, the HR/VP and NATO's Secretary-General presented their package of 42 proposals for the implementation of the joint EU-NATO declaration, signed in Warsaw in July 2016. On 30 November 2016 the Commission submitted a communication on the European Defence Action Plan to the Council and the European Parliament (EP).

On 7 June 2017 the Commission presented a Communication on launching the European Defence Fund and an accompanying Proposal for a Regulation establishing the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP).  On 13 June 2018 it submitted a proposal for a Regulation establishing the EDF. 

On 28 March 2018 the Commission presented an Action Plan to improve military mobility within and beyond the European Union. This Action Plan identifies a series of operational measures to tackle physical, procedural or regulatory barriers which hamper military mobility.

 On 14 November 2016, the Council welcomed the implementation plan on security and defence and reiterated its call to deepen European defence cooperation. On 6 December 2016, the Council and the NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs endorsed the proposals for the implementation of the EU-NATO Joint Declaration.

The European Council welcomed and endorsed all three elements of the defence package on 15 December.

On 6 March 2017 the Council approved a concept note on CSDP missions and operations, including the establishment of a military planning and conduct capability (MPCC). On 8 June 2017, the Council adopted the decision establishing the MPCC.

On 18 May 2017 the Council welcomed the progress made in EU-NATO cooperation. It provided guidance for further work , including permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), the possibility of a voluntary coordinated annual review on defence (CARD) and the EDAP.

On 19 June 2017 the Council welcomed the progress made in implementation of the common set of proposals (42 actions) agreed by the EU and NATO.

The European Council of June 2017  agreed on the need to launch PESCO. It also agreed that the deployment of Battlegroups should be borne as a common cost by the EU-managed Athena mechanism on a permanent basis. It urged the Council to speed up work on civilian crisis management.

On 19 October 2017 the European Council welcomed progress on PESCO, on the EDIDP, the EDF and CARD. On 13 November 2017, the Council welcomed the common notification by 23 Member States on their intention to participate in PESCO; the progress on the implementation of the EDF;the launch of the trial run of the CARD; and the presentation of the Joint Communication on Military Mobility. PESCO was launched by 25 Member States on 11 December 2017 and welcomed by the European Council on 14 December. E

On 6 March 2018, the Council – meeting for the first time in 'PESCO' format – formally adopted the list of projects to be developed and a roadmap for the implementation of PESCO. The HR/VP presented to the Council her initiative on a proposal for an off-EU budget European Peace Facility.

On 28 May 2018 the Council adopted conclusions on strengthening civilian CSDP. On 25 June it welcomed the Commission's proposals on security and defence in the framework of the next MFF and adopted conclusions on PESCO, CARD, the EDF, Military Mobility, the European Peace Facility, hybrid threats and various aspects of CSDP. On 28 June the European Council welcomed progress in security and defence and invited the Council to decide on the conditions for third State participation in PESCO projects. On 10 July the EU and NATO signed the second Joint Declaration on EU-NATO cooperation.

On  5 October 2018, the Council adopted a recommendation defining the different stages in completion of the most binding commitments taken as part of PESCO and determining more specific objectives.  The recommendation will be re-examined and updated, where necessary, in 2021.

On 19 November 2018 the Council adopted important conclusions on security and defence in the context of the EU Global Strategy. It welcomed the establishment of a civilian CSDP compact; agreed to further strengthen the role of the MPCC with the objective to to be ready by the end of 2020 to also take responsibility for the operational planning and conduct of one executive military CSDP operation, limited to EU battlegroup size; it adoptes a list of 17 new PESCO projects; it agreed to lauch the CARD as a standinng activity and welcomed the implementation of efforts to improve military mobility. It also adopted its position on the European Defence Fund and took note of the proposal by the HR/VP for a European Peace Facility, inviting the relevant bodies to take this work forwards. Finally, it welcomed the second EU-NATO Joint Declaration. On 14 December 2018 the European Council welcomed the  progress made in the area of security and defence and endorsed the Civilian CSDP Compact.

On 14 May 2019 the Council (FAC in Defence format) noted progress in increasing defence budgets and investments and in Member States' regular usage of EU tools such as the CDP, CARD and EDIDP. The Council adopted a recommendation assessing the progress made by participating member states to fulfil commitments undertaken in the framework of PESCO. It also discussed EU-NATO cooperation, in particular countering hybrid threats.

On 17 June 2019 the Council called for a coherent and output-oriented implementation of the various EU defence initiatives as well as increasing synergies between them.  It noted that it looks forward to the completion of the review pf the Athena mechanism. It called for more work, including in collective threat assessment. The Council called upon the EEAS and Commission to produce concrete deliverables on the Civilian CSDP Compact by the Annual Review Conference; and for the advancement  of aspects of military mobility by the end of 2019. On 12 November 2019 the Council launched 13 new PESCO projects bringing the total number of projects to 47. The Council also discussed EU-NATO relations;  CSDP missions and operations, encouraging ongoing work on coordinated maritime presence. On 9 December 2019, the Council adopted conclusions on Civilian CSDP in which it highlighted the significant contribution of the civilian CSDP missions to international peace and stability. The Council endorsed the "waypoints"identified at the first annual review conference (ARC) and looked forward to the second ARC in November 2020.

The European Parliament (EP) has called for an effective and ambitious European foreign and security policy based 'on a shared vision of key European interests'. On 22 November 2016, the EP adopted a resolution which calls on the HR/VP to produce an EU security and defence white paper to be based on the EUGS. The resolution encourages the European Council to lead the progressive framing of the EDU, with a view to its establishment under the EU's next multiannual political and financial framework (MFF).

On 14 December 2016 Parliament re-emphasised that the EU must strengthen its security and defence capabilities and expressed support for all related initiatives, including the setting up of a defence configuration of the Council and the activation of PESCO. On 16 March 2017 the EP urged the Council to take steps towards the harmonisation and standardisation of the European armed forces. It called on the Council and the HR/VP to elaborate an EU White Book on security and defence. 

On 13 December 2017 the EP welcomed PESCO. On 13 June 2018 it  adopted a resolution on EU-NATO and a resolution on cyber defence. On 3 July 2018 Parliament adopted a legislative resolution  on the proposal for a regulation establishing the European Defence Industrial Development Programme aiming at supporting the competitiveness and innovative capacity of the EU defence industry. In December 2018 the EP adopted a resolution on military mobility in which it expressed its support for the initiative and for EU-NATO cooperation. In its annual resolution on the implementation of the CSDP, the Parliament welcomed the progress in all areas of security and defence and underlined, among other things, the need for a stronger parliamentary dimension, including oversight, of security and defence policy, among other thingd through a fully-fledged Committee on Security and Defence, complemented by joint interparliamentary meetings between representatives from national parliaments and MEPs. In February 2018 the EP welcomed PESCO, CARD and the EDF as important steps towards a common defence policy, and noted proposals by certain Member States for an EU Security Council and a European Intervention Initiative. It recalled its call for the establishment of a permanent Council of Defence Ministers underlined the importance of appropriate democratic accountability of decisions taken in the area of defence and the need for reinforced cooperation between the EP and national parliaments in this regard. On 28 March the EP adopted a resolution supporting  the European Peace Facility and on 18 April 2019, Parliament adopted the partial agreement on the European Defence Fund.


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Author: Elena Lazarou, Members' Research Service,

As of 20/11/2019.