EU signs de­fense co­op­er­a­tion pact

Sun.Star Cebu - - WORLD - / AFP

The EU will move to­wards closer de­fense ties Mon­day with more than 20 states sign­ing a land­mark pact that aims to boost co­op­er­a­tion af­ter Brexit and coun­ter­act Rus­sian pres­sure.

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 per­ma­nent struc­tured co­op­er­a­tion on de­fense agree­ment (PESCO), seeks to tighten de­fense be­tween EU mem­bers and im­prove co­or­di­na­tion in the de­vel­op­ment of new mil­i­tary hard­ware.

The agree­ment is part of efforts led by Ger­many and France to re­boot the Euro­pean Union af­ter Bri­tain’s de­ci­sion to leave and fol­lows the an­nounce­ment in June of a 5.5-bil­lion euro Euro­pean De­fence Fund.

The pact’s back­ers say it will com­ple­ment NATO, which will keep its pri­mary role in de­fend­ing Europe.

Span­ish De­fense Min­is­ter Maria Dolores de Cospedal hailed PESCO last week as “pos­si­bly the EU’s most am­bi­tious cur­rent project”.

The no­tice of in­tent to be signed by de­fense min­is­ters in Brus­sels on Mon­day pledges that coun­tries will pro­vide “sub­stan­tial sup­port” in ar­eas in­clud­ing per­son­nel, equip­ment, train­ing and in­fra­struc­ture” for EU mil­i­tary mis­sions.

It also com­mits coun­tries to “reg­u­larly in­creas­ing de­fence bud­gets in real terms” as well as de­vot­ing 20 per­cent of de­fense spend­ing to pro­cure­ment and two per­cent on re­search and tech­nol­ogy.

“We’ve never come close to this be­fore,” an EU of­fi­cial said.

“We have more than 20 mem­ber states ... not just sign­ing pa­per -- un­der­tak­ing com­mit­ments in terms of spend­ing on de­fense and joint projects.” PESCO could lead to the cre­ation of a Euro­pean mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal or lo­gis­tics hub, but will first fo­cus on projects to de­velop mil­i­tary equip­ment with the aim of har­mo­niz­ing weapons sys­tems.

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