EU countries sign key defence pact
Brussels, Belgium - The EU took a step towards closer defence ties on Monday, with 23 states signing a landmark pact aiming to boost cooperation after Brexit and as Russia flexes its muscles to the east. The permanent structured cooperation on defence agreement (PESCO) seeks to improve EU coordination on defence and weapons systems development.
It is part of efforts led by Germany and France to reboot the European Union after Britain’s shock decision to quit and follows the announcement in June of a € 5.5bn European Defence Fund. The EU’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini hailed the agreement as ‘a new page of European defence’.
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 shift in US policy under President Donald Trump - who berated European partners on military spending at a NATO summit in May - has also led many to question whether Washington can be relied upon to protect Europe as it has in the past. “It was important for us especially after the election of the American president that we can organise ourselves independently as Europeans,” German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said. “This is complementary to NATO, but we also see that nobody will solve the security problems that Europe has in its neighbourhood - we have to do it ourselves.”
EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini (centre) poses with foreign and defence ministers from EU states in Brussels on Monday