The Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) is designed to deepen defence cooperation amongst member states who are capable and willing to do so.
EU leaders formally launched PESCO this week and around 20 countries, including France, Germany and Spain, have already signalled their intention to join.
PESCO will enable member states to jointly develop defence capabilities, invest in shared projects and enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces.
The Commission said it “strongly welcomed” the move, which comes after President Jean-Claude Juncker called for a stronger Europe on security and defence.
During his election campaign in April 2014, Juncker said, “I believe that we need to take more seriously the provisions of the existing treaty that allow those European countries who want to do this to progressively build up a common European defence.
“I know this is not for everybody. But those countries that would like to go ahead should be encouraged to do so. Pooling defence capacities in Europe makes perfect economic sense.”
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said, “PESCO is an example of how the EU can serve member states’ priorities, be efficient and effective.”
Manfred Weber, leader of Parliament’s EPP group, also voiced his support for PESCO, saying, “Europe will be made fit to resist any aggression. United we are strong.”
ALDE group Chair Guy Verhofstadt said this was “a step closer towards a safer Europe.”
Further support for the idea came from Parliament’s Greens/EFA group co-leaders Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts.
Speaking in Strasbourg, Lamberts said, “This is a very welcome step towards greater cooperation on defence at EU level. We are pleased that this instrument from the Lisbon treaty is finally being used. It is now important that PESCO makes the common security and defence policy more effective on the operational level.”
The Belgian deputy said, “With such a huge level of duplication in defence spending across the EU, PESCO has the potential to produce major savings. From research and development to procurement, joint maintenance and training, EU countries could greatly improve the return on their investment if they work together more.!
Keller, a German member, agreed, saying, “As the world’s second biggest defence spender, the EU28 are not in need of increased defence budgets but of highly efficient cooperation. We want to see genuine pooling and sharing of resources, not an arms race. PESCO must not be used as an excuse to pump further money into military spending and these activities must be financed by national governments, not the EU budget.”