European Union launches new era in defense cooperation

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"I will expect the next Foreign Affairs Council to adopt this formal decision, so that we will be able to launch for the first time ever a European Defense Permanent Structured Cooperation with concrete projects, announced EU Foreign Policy Chief Frederica Mogherini".

Ireland, Portugal, and Malta are undecided whether to join.

PESCO obligates European Union member states to cooperate more and more systematically: increasing defense spending, making their units available for European Union operations, creating common military powers and strengthening the defense industry.

Ministers from 23 member states of the European Union signed today a joint notification on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and handed it over to the High Representative and the Council.

It is part of efforts led by Germany and France to reboot the EU after Britain's decision to leave and follows the announcement in June of a €5.5 billion (S$8.7 billion) European Defence Fund.

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There are strong indications that British officials are pushing hard for the United Kingdom to be included in the Permanent Structured Cooperation process, or PESCO, which is key to the Defence Union plans set out by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker recently.

By working together on joint projects, nations hope to use their combined spending power to overcome capability gaps, jointly buying equipment like air transporters or drones.

"The real problem is not how much we spend, it is the fact that we spend in a fragmented manner", Mogherini said. The move, driven by France and Germany, is misguided. Frederic Mauro, a defence expert who advises the European Parliament, said he was "deeply sceptical" about the final form of the pact, describing it as "light years" away from the concept of defence cooperation foreseen in EU treaties. But, he said, "we must go further" in defense cooperation.

U.S. President Donald Trump refused last month to certify that Iran is complying with its obligations under the nuclear accord, though global inspectors said it is.

The agreement also commits countries to "regularly increasing defense budgets in real terms" as well as devoting 20 percent of defense spending to procurement and two percent to research and technology.

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