Brussels, Nov 13: The EU will move towards closer defence ties today with more than 20 states signing a landmark pact that aims to boost cooperation after Brexit and counteract Russian pressure.
Similar efforts to deepen military links have been frustrated for decades, partly by Britain’s fierce opposition to anything that might lead to a European army.
But Brexit and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 has once again brought the need for a strong European security stance back into focus.
The permanent structured cooperation on defence agreement (PESCO), seeks to tighten defence between EU members and improve coordination in the development of new military hardware.
The agreement is part of efforts led by Germany and France to reboot the European Union after Britain’s decision to leave and follows the announcement in June of a 5.5-billion euro European Defence Fund.
The pact’s backers say it will complement NATO, which will keep its primary role in defending Europe.
Spanish Defence Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal hailed PESCO last week as “possibly the EU’s most ambitious current project”.
The notice of intent to be signed by defence ministers in Brussels pledges that countries will provide “substantial support” in areas including personnel, equipment, training and infrastructure” for EU military missions.
It also commits countries to “regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms” as well as devoting 20 percent of defence spending to procurement and two percent on research and technology.
“We’ve never come close to this before,” an EU official said.
“We have more than 20 member states … Not just signing paper — undertaking commitments in terms of spending on defence and joint projects.”
PESCO could lead to the creation of a European military hospital or logistics hub, but will first focus on projects to develop new military equipment such as tanks or drones with the aim of harmonising weapons systems and eliminating gaps in capabilities.