EU Ministers Sign Landmark Defense Agreement

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 EU's diplomatic chief, Ms Federica Mogherini, hailed the agreement as "a new page of European defence", saying countries had already proposed more than 50 projects. Ireland, Portugal and Malta are still in the process of deciding whether to join. At that the member states retain their sovereign right to leading their own national defense.

This permanent framework for defence cooperation will allow those member states willing and able to jointly develop defence capabilities, invest in shared projects, or enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces.

"With the creation of PESCO, member states are taking defense cooperation to a whole new level", Minister of Defence Jüri Luik said according to an European Union presidency press release.

It is part of efforts led by Germany and France to reboot the EU after Britain's decision to leave and follows the announcement in June of a €5.5 billion (S$8.7 billion) European Defence Fund.

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"The real problem is not how much we spend, it is the fact that we spend in a fragmented manner", Mogherini said.

"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. Germany wanted the pact to include as many countries as possible while France wanted it to be as militarily ambitious as possible, they said.

European Union officials insist this is not just bureaucratic cooperation, but real investment that will help develop Europe's defense industry and spur research and development in military capabilities that the bloc needs most.

Mrs Mogherini said the move would not only complement Nato's security aims but fill in gaps in the Atlantic alliance.

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With the notification signed, a final decision to launch the defense cooperation framework is expected in December.

The EU can also bring its political and financial weight to bear on security challenges, such as the use of development aid in Africa, where North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has no real foothold.

The agreement commits countries to "regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms" as well as devoting 20 percent of defence spending to procurement and two percent on research and technology.

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