European Union takes step towards closer defence cooperation

Poland decides to join EU's PESCO defense project

Poland decides to join EU's PESCO defense project

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, center, poses with EU foreign and defense ministers after signing the notification on Permanent Structure Cooperation (PESCO) on the margin of a foreign affairs council at the Europa building in Brussels, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.

With a focus on reacting and defending against Russian aggression, the new set-up effectively gives Brussels a formal role in the overall strategic defences across the continent.

German Foreign Minister Gabriel lauded the agreement as "a great step toward self-sufficiency and strengthening the European Union's security and defense policy - really a milestone in European development".

"The real problem is not how much we spend, it is the fact that we spend in a fragmented manner", Mogherini said. Germany wanted the pact to include as many countries as possible while France wanted it to be as militarily ambitious as possible, they said.

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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.

With the notification signed, a final decision to launch the defence cooperation framework is expected in December. "It has no chance of working".

Former UKIP leader Diane James MEP has suggested that, "as the EU Common Defence Fund is being launched way before Brexit, the UK will be providing 13 per cent of the cash" - although this is not yet fully confirmed. He added that PESCO will remain open to all member states, and noted that it is important that its objectives are achievable regardless of the size of the countries involved.

Ultimately Pesco could be overseen by a European operational headquarters or logistics base.

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Participants have signed up to a list of commitments which "include increasing the share of expenditure allocated to defense research and technology with a view to nearing the 2 percent of total defense spending" and to "regularly increasing defense budgets in real terms".

Mrs Mogherini said that by coordinating their efforts, European countries would get better value for money in defence.

Estonian Defense Minister Jüri Luik said the main focus of the new initiative would be defense industries as "collective defense will always remain in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation".

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