Listen Download Podcast
  • RFI English News flash 04h00 - 04h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 11/22 04h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 04h10 - 04h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 11/22 04h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 05h00 - 05h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 11/22 05h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 05h10 - 05h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 11/22 05h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h00 - 06h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 11/22 06h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h10 - 06h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 11/22 06h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h30 - 06h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 11/22 06h30 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h33 - 06h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 11/22 06h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h00 - 07h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 11/22 07h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h30 - 07h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 11/22 07h30 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 11/19 14h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h06 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 11/21 14h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 14h03 - 14h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 11/19 14h03 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h06 - 14h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 11/21 14h06 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h30 - 14h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 11/21 14h30 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h33 - 14h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 11/21 14h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 11/19 16h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h06 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 11/21 16h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h03 - 16h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 11/19 16h03 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h30 - 16h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 11/21 16h30 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h33 - 17h00 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 11/19 16h33 GMT
To take full advantage of multimedia content, you must have the Flash plugin installed in your browser. To connect, you need to enable cookies in your browser settings. For an optimal navigation, the RFI site is compatible with the following browsers: Internet Explorer 8 and above, Firefox 10 and +, Safari 3+, Chrome 17 and + etc.
Europe

Did the EU take its first step towards a common European army?

media Defence and Foreign Affairs ministers of 23 EU countries sign PESCO agreement in Brussels, Belgium on November 13, 2017. Reuters/Emmanuel Dunand

Twenty-three European Union member states on Monday signed a pact aiming to boost defence cooperation.

The permanent structured cooperation on defence agreement (PESCO) was signed on 13 November in Brussels.

PESCO commits countries to increase their defence budgets and devote 20 percent of defence spending to procurement and two percent on research and technology.

The agreement is the fruit of efforts led by Germany and France to reboot the EU after Britain's shock decision last year to leave the bloc, and follows the announcement in June of a 5.5-billion euro European Defence Fund.

The European Commission described PESCO in a Monday statement as "a treaty-based framework and process to deepen defence cooperation amongst EU member states who are capable and willing to do so.

Countries can "jointly develop defence capabilities, invest in shared projects and enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces," the statement said.

“It is quite a historic day,” said EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Commissioner Federica Mogherini at the signing.

PESCO, a 'European army'?

"I don’t think that this would lead to what people call ‘a European army’ in which all European countries bring their forces together under a central command,” says Dick Zandee, Senior Research Fellow with the Clingendael Institute in The Hague, playing down rumours.

But PESCO will increase cooperation on a smaller scale. Member states have so far proposed some 50 projects for joint development.

“One of the projects proposed is a new development of mine countermeasures. Hunting mines under water would only involve maritime nations that have a navy."

I believe that the Brits actually have always within the EU boycotted any effort for joint security and defence.
PESCO 14/11/2017 - by Jan van der Made Listen

Other projects may involve geographical groupings of member states.

“It is like a chess board, there are many pieces on the chess board, but the formations moving around here and there will be of a different composition,” he says.

Brexit, security spur PESCO signing

 

Several factors sped up the process of signing PESCO, and Brexit was one of them.

“I believe that the Brits have always boycotted any effort for joint security and defence within the EU,” Ana Maria Gomes, a Socialist member of European Parliament (MEP) for Portugal tells RFI.

Gomes says the UK "would sometimes lead missions" in the framework of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy, but only "because it suited their own national perspective.” She adds that US President Donald Trump's remarks that NATO is obsolete “obviously left a very important mark."

But PESCO's signing was due first and foremost to Europe's security challenges.

The Russian annexation of Crimea and the emergence of the Islamic State armed group (IS) in the Middle East were “absolutely the most important driving forces behind the creation of PESCO,” says Zandee, adding that “Brexit has made it easier to have this all accepted in Brussels.”

PESCO reinforces legal framework for EU defence

The difference between PESCO and the existing EU Common Security and Defence Policy is that this PESCO consists of a legal framework.

“All the commitments that member states signed up to [on 13 November] can be enforced to a certain extent,” says Zandee.

“Not by a system of punishment, or by going to the European court," Zandee explains. "But the High Representative can raise a yellow card when member states are no longer fulfilling their commitments.”

Five nations opt out

The signing of PESCO was signed by an overwhelming 23 out of 28 EU member states.

Only five members--Portugal, Ireland, Denmark, Malta and the UK--did not sign.

Ireland is concerned that its neutrality may be at stake, but since there’s an opting out clause, it may sign at a later stage after it’s been scrutinised by the government.

And in Portugal, there was a domestic political issue. There, the Socialist party rules with the parliamentary support of the Communist party (PCP).

The PCP has always opposed Portugal being part of any European defence cooperation.

“This is the normal position of the Communist Party,” says MEP Gomes. “They’ve always been against any initiative of the EU on security or defence."

But in the end, she says the ruling Socialists will go their own way.

"The Socialist Party has moved forward. We’ll always be a partner of any initiative of security and defence,” she says.

The agreement will likely take effect in December when the European Council next meets, after the signed agreement is ratified by a majority vote.

Related
 
Sorry but the period of time connection to the operation is exceeded.