Cypriot leader hails signing of permanent structured cooperation pact

What is the EU defense union PESCO?

Twenty-three European Union member states on Monday signed [press release] a joint notification [text, PDF] for the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), a long sought after pact which will facilitate states working together more closely on defense security and defense policy matters. "For EU citizens, it means more security and a clear sign of willingness of all Member States to foster common security and defence to achieve the goals set by EU Global Strategy".

The 23 governments will for the first time bind themselves into cooperating on defense and military projects including rapid deployments.

Europe's decades-long intention to create an integrated defence force moved a step closer yesterday after 23 European Union governments signed a pact to fund, develop and deploy joint armed forces.

Speaking in Brussels, Germany's foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters the deal represented a "historic step" and "a milestone in European development".

All EU members except the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Malta and Portugal have signed up.

PESCO will not compete with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, as the latter specialises in collective defence, whereas bolstered defence cooperation among Europeans is created to ensure that the EU can respond to various situations overseas in a more prompt and efficient manner, claim European diplomats. Other states are free to join at a later date. Traditionally neutral Austria was a late addition to the pact.

"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.

Its backers say that if successful, the formal club of 23 members will give the European Union a more coherent role in tackling worldwide crises and end the kind of shortcomings seen in Libya in 2011, when European allies relied on the United States for air power and munitions.

The election of pro-European Emmanuel Macron as France's president and warnings by U.S. President Donald Trump that European allies must pay more towards their security have propelled the project forward, diplomats said. Stoltenberg had previously urged European nations to increase their military budget, DW writes.

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