Permanent structured cooperation (PESCO): Beyond establishment

Briefing 09-03-2018

In its 2016 Global Strategy, the European Union (EU) set a new level of ambition in security and defence. Closer defence cooperation among EU Member States is now at the top of the agenda. The aim is to make European defence spending more efficient, and work towards a strategically autonomous European defence union (EDU). The launch of permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) in December 2017 is seen as a crucial step in that direction. On 13 November 2017, 23 EU Member States signed a joint notification addressed to the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) and to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission (HR/VP) on their intention to participate in PESCO. On 11 December 2017, 25 Member States agreed to 'ambitious and more binding common commitments' and issued an initial list of 17 PESCO defence projects to fill the EU's strategic capability gaps and ensure the cross-border availability, deployability and interoperability of forces. On 6 March 2018, the Council – meeting for the first time ever in 'PESCO' format – formally adopted the list of projects to be developed. This new impetus given to EU defence has been accompanied by widespread support on the part of high-level EU representatives, and is also broadly backed by the European public. Nonetheless the 'renaissance' of EU defence policy came fairly unexpectedly. Several challenges remain, including boosting investment, overcoming fragmentation and accommodating national defence priorities while coordinating national defence capabilities.