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European Union: 23 Member States Sign Common Notification to Deepen Defense Cooperation

(Nov. 28, 2017) Member States of the European Union (EU) have taken a formal step toward closer cooperation in defense and security.  On November 13, 2017, 23 of the 28 EU Member States signed a common notification on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on security and defense and submitted it to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (High Representative) and to the Council of the European Union (Council). The 23 Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.  (Notification on Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) to the Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Notification), Nov. 13, 2017, Council website; Consolidated Version of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), arts. 42 ¶ 6 & 46, and Protocol 10, 2012 O.J. (C 326) 13, EUR-LEX.)

The PESCO is a process to deepen defense cooperation by jointly developing defense capabilities and making them available for EU military operations. The participating Member States pledged to, among other measures, regularly increase their defense budgets and coordinate a series of operational and capability projects.  (Notification, supra, Annex II.)  Whether or not the participating Member States meet the commitments will be reviewed regularly by the High Representative and the European Defense Agency.  (Id. Annex III, bullet point 4; TEU, Protocol 10, art. 3.)

Participation in the PESCO takes place on a voluntary basis. No minimum number of Member States is required for the cooperation to take place, as opposed to work within the separate framework of enhanced cooperation, which requires a minimum of nine Member States.  Commitments made within the framework of the PESCO are binding on the participating Member States.  (Id. Annex I, at 1.)  Non-participating Member States that are willing and able to meet the commitments may join the PESCO at any time by notifying the High Representative and the Council.  (TEU, art.46 ¶ 3.)  Third countries outside of the EU may participate in individual projects on an exceptional basis if it is determined that the participation would add substantial value to the project and strengthen the PESCO and the EU common security and defense policy (CSDP).  (Notification, supra, Annex III, bullet point 2.2.1.)

Procedure and Next Steps

The common notification is the first formal step to set up the PESCO. (TEU, art. 46 ¶ 1.)  Within three months following the notification, the Council must adopt a decision establishing the PESCO by a qualified majority, after consulting the High Representative.  (Id. art. 46 ¶ 2.) Each Member State participating in the PESCO will provide a national implementation plan outlining its ability to meet the commitments to the Council before the adoption of the Council decision.  (Notification, supra, Annex III, bullet point 4.1.)

 Background on the EU Common Security and Defense Policy

 The PESCO is part of the CSDP, which is an integral part of the common foreign and security policy of the EU. (Id. art. 42 ¶ 1.)  CSDP covers both civilian and military missions and operations for peace-keeping, conflict prevention, and strengthening international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter.  (Id.)  These tasks include joint disarmament operations, humanitarian and rescue tasks, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and peace-keeping tasks, and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making and post-conflict stabilization.  (Id. art. 43 ¶ 1.)

CSDP includes the gradual framing of a common EU defense policy, which might lead to a common EU defense. (Id. art. 42 ¶ 2.)  Creating the PESCO is seen as a step towards establishing such a common EU defense.  (Notification, supra, Annex I.)  Setting up a common EU defense requires a unanimous vote by the European Council.  (TEU, art. 42 ¶ 2.)