EU Countries Take Step Toward Deeper Security Cooperation

Poland decides to join EU's PESCO defense project

A total of 23 EU-member states have joined PESCO so far, with membership optional.

France and Germany proposed the initiative a year ago as part of their efforts to breathe new life into the European project after Britain voted to leave the bloc.

The European Union took a step towards closer defence ties yesterday, with 23 states signing a landmark pact aiming to boost cooperation after Brexit and as Russian Federation flexes its muscles to the east. Ireland, Portugal and Malta are still in the process of deciding whether to join.

PESCO will not compete with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, as the latter specialises in collective defence, whereas bolstered defence cooperation among Europeans is created to ensure that the EU can respond to various situations overseas in a more prompt and efficient manner, claim European diplomats.

"It will primarily depend on France and Germany's ability to address short term technical issues, such as the definition of ambitious projects and the monitoring of the countries' commitments, and to focus on the concrete military effects of this initiative", said the European Leadership Network think tank in a research note.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, center left, speaks with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, center right, during a meeting of European Union foreign and defense ministers at the Europa building in Brussels, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. Mogherini, EU military chiefs and the European Defence Agency will then evaluate whether the plans are being respected. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel stressed it would have economic benefits.

The agreement envisions a Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, which is meant to give the European Union a more coherent role in tackling global crises, follows the announcement of a $6.4-billion European Defense Fund last June. He said Europe spends 50 percent as much as the United States on defense yet only has 15 percent of its military efficiency.

The 23 countries that announced their intention to take part in the new initiative are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

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