European Union member states sign joint notification on deepening defense cooperation

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini poses with foreign and defence ministers from 23 EU member states after they signed the Permanent Structure Cooperation agreement in Brussels on Monday

The Commission strongly welcomes the move by Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden towards launching Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on defence, by signing today a joint notification and handing it over to High Representative Federica Mogherini. The shift in policy comes after the administration of US President Donald Trump sent mixed messages about support to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The EU took a step towards closer defence ties Monday, with 23 states signing a landmark pact aiming to boost cooperation after Brexit and as Russian Federation flexes its muscles to the east. With the notification signed, a final decision to launch the defense cooperation framework is expected in December.

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

The next step is for European Union leaders to sign the pact which may occur in December at the Foreign Affairs Council.

All EU members except the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Malta and Portugal have signed up. The countries which did not sign the initiative can join on a later date. Paris originally wanted a vanguard of European Union countries to bring money and assets to French-led military missions and projects.

In Europe's latest attempt to lessen its reliance on the United States, the 22 governments will create a formal club that should give the European Union a more coherent role in tackling worldwide crises.

"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 has led to unease by European allies that the US was not committed to the alliance's mutual defense pact.

The club will be backed by a €5 billion defense fund for buying weapons, a special fund to finance operations and money from the EU's common budget for defense research.

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