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All Member States, with the exception of the United Kingdom, Denmark and Malta, have decided to launch permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), pursuant to Section 2 (Articles 42 to 46) and Protocols 10 and 11 to the TEU. The will to introduce a type of differentiated integration has arisen as a political response to the demand from European citizens for greater security. It is a clear message of support for the common values of the Treaty of Rome, particularly now, at a time when the memory of the historical values of peace and cooperation that drove the peoples of the founding Member States to respond unanimously to the horrendous wounds of two world wars is fading in many Member States.
The commitments to be undertaken as part of this initiative were the result of long negotiations between the project's main proponents: Brussels, Paris, Berlin and Rome. France wanted more demanding criteria to ensure that the PESCO was a genuinely ambitious initiative, able to provide strategic autonomy in the use of armed force and in the development and production of the necessary military equipment. Meanwhile, Germany, along with the EU institutions, pressed for the PESCO to be inclusive and for the political and strategic decision not to exclude the Central and Eastern European countries. A balance was struck between these two perspectives. It is not by chance that the phrase "ambitious and inclusive" occurs frequently throughout the official documents establishing the PESCO.
The new institutional set-up
The PESCO, created by the Council Decision of 8 December (14866/17), differs substantially from previous political stances on European defence. This time, cooperation is based on provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, which provide for binding commitments, mechanisms to check the decisions taken and the possibility of excluding any Member State from the PESCO group for failure to comply with the requirements set or meet commitments. It is a clear sign that Europe has decided to prioritise Member States which identify with shared objectives and values that they accept and respect. The High Representative and Vice-President will be fully involved and will also be responsible for the annual evaluation of the PESCO's performance. The European Defence Agency (EDA), the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the EU Military Committee will act as the joint secretariat for the PESCO. The Political and Security Committee (PSC) and the European Council will meet in "PESCO format" as well.
Synergies between PESCO and other current initiatives
The PESCO is deeply embedded in the EU's institutional framework. Links with two other important current initiatives were built into its design. The first of these initiatives is the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), a mechanism for coordination between EU defence ministries on planning national military capabilities, provided for by the EU Global Strategy and due to be rolled out in 2018, with the support of the EDA. The second is the European Defence Fund (EDF) launched by the Commission at the end of 2016 to finance military research within the EU and to co-finance cooperative projects on development and the procurement of equipment that include more than one Member State. The happy combination of EU funding, ministerial coordination by the EDA and the political and institutional momentum of the PESCO offers a truly new, dynamic path towards European defence.
The next steps
The next steps will be to draft the national implementation plans for common defence and launch joint projects to define new and strengthen existing military capabilities. Substantial, ambitious projects will be needed, to ensure that all Member States involved in setting up this interesting common experience are included in economic and cultural processes. The most serious problem to address is the capacity to broaden democratic accountability. Moving from control of the armed forces, which is deeply rooted in the individual Member States, to a different type of governance with a European dimension is a challenge, in a field that has not yet been fully explored.
Research & development
Involvement of research and development activities for the defence sector is a further success. So far, the Commission has only dealt with the civil sector. The launch of the European Defence Action Plan is the first definite step taken and indicates the emergence of a supranational approach to defence.
The benefit of PESCO to industrial development in Europe
The Commission proposal for a European Defence Industrial Development Programme (COM(2017) 294 final) aims to enhance competitiveness and innovation in the defence industry, including cyber defence. This important step, coupled with the new PESCO values, seeks to make better use of research results specifically in the defence sector by promoting cooperation between undertakings in the development of defence products and technologies and by leveraging Member States' efforts so as to ensure that the defence technological and industrial base can fully meet Europe's current and future security needs. This would ultimately help to enhance the EU's strategic autonomy and strengthen its ability to act with various partner countries.
The European defence policy was identified as a key political priority in President Juncker's political guidelines of July 2014. This should be also viewed in connection with the fact that after decades of peace and stability, the Union is facing increased instability and new emerging security threats. This changing security environment demonstrated in a clear way that only through joint efforts in investing in security development and cooperation at all levels can we deliver on the expectations of Union citizens and our partners. For Europe to take over more responsibility for its defence, it is crucial to improve competitiveness and enhance innovation across the Union defence industry.
EESC opinion: European defence industrial development programme