European Union member states sign joint notification on deepening defense cooperation

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini poses with foreign and defence ministers from 23 EU member states after they signed the Permanent Structure Cooperation agreement in Brussels on Monday

Defence and foreign ministers from the 23 countries on Monday signed a notification of their intention to establish the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which allows countries to cooperate more closely on security operations and building up military capability.

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". The move, driven by France and Germany, is misguided. "I think that European cooperation on defense questions will rather contribute to saving money - we have about 50 percent of the United States' defense spending in Europe, but only 15 percent of the efficiency".

He explained that tomorrow, during the Foreign Affairs and Defence Council in Brussels, those member states who intend to join PESCO are expected to jointly sign the notification letter addressed to the Council and the High Representative.

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"The Germans say respect unity and proceed modestly at the start with all these little projects - they won't help the EU's independent capacity", Mr Mauro said. "This is complementary to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation but we also see that nobody will solve the security problems that Europe has in its neighbourhood - we have to do it ourselves". Britain - a nuclear power with permanent veto power at the UN Security Council - has always been fiercely opposed to anything that might lead to the creation of an "EU army" commanded by Brussels. 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. At launch the focus will be project-driven such as the development new military equipment such as tanks or drones.

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". "We are leaving the European Union but not Europe, and regional security remains top of our agenda in the face of increased Russian assertiveness", said Lord Howe, the defence minister.

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