Defence cooperation: 23 European Union member states sign joint notification on PESCO

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

"Today we will launch a new page for the European Defence", said Frederica Mogherini, the EU's foreign and defence policy representative. Denmark has a defence opt-out from European Union treaties while Portugal, Ireland and Malta have not made a formal decision to join.

Twenty-three countries have declared they will participate in a new EU defense cooperation pact, part of a broader push to advance European integration, officials said Monday.

Defense and foreign ministers from the 23 countries signed a notification of their intention to establish the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which allows countries to cooperate more closely on security operations and building up military capability.

The agreement is part of efforts led by Germany and France to reboot the European Union after Britain's decision to leave and follows the announcement in June of a 5.5-billion euro European Defence Fund.

By working together on joint projects, nations hope to use their combined spending power to overcome capability gaps, jointly buying equipment like air transporters or drones. "The real problem is not how much we spend, it is the fact that we spend in a fragmented manner".

European Union Foreign Ministers, who are meeting on Monday in Brussels, will hear EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini report on her recent lobbying trip to the us on the Iran nuclear deal.

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The agreement envisions a Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, which is meant to give the European Union a more coherent role in tackling worldwide crises, follows the announcement of a $6.4-billion European Defense Fund last June.

Speaking to the press on Sunday, following a memorial event in Nicosia district, the Minister said that the government looks forward to creating the conditions for the presence of a European Defence Force that will strengthen Cyprus' defence shield.

He explained that PESCO's structure will be more on a defence level. This could take place at the next Foreign Affairs Council on 11th December.

The shift in United States policy under President Donald Trump - who berated European partners on military spending at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in May - has also led many to question whether Washington can be relied upon to protect Europe as it has in the past.

Mogherini said the move would complement NATO's security aims.

The agreement commits countries to "regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms" as well as devoting 20 per cent of defence spending to procurement and 2 per cent to research and technology.

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