Their declaration includes a joint notification on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
At the Foreign Affairs Council, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel and Federal Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen signed a notification of Germany’s intention to participate in PESCO. Alongside Germany, another 22 EU member states signed the notification. The new European defence union is to be launched in mid-December.
What is PESCO?
PESCO stands for "Permanent Structured Cooperation". The aim is to put European defence policy on a more binding footing, but it is not a European army.
How does the German government see PESCO?
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel described the agreement as a milestone. "We have known for years that investment with a narrowly national focus no longer pays off," he said. "Every year billions of euros of tax-payers' money is effectively thrown out the window on defence spending which is no longer able to keep pace with the radical changes in the security environment." Security and defence budgets can now be used more effectively.
Federal Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen also spoke of a "great day" for Europe. "Today we are founding the European security and defence union." No country "will resolve the problems facing Europe in our immediate neighborhood for us. We Europeans must be able to do so alone."
What advantages does PESCO offer?
One example: To date EU states have procured much of their military equipment at national level. Large areas of cooperation could, however be rendered more effective. If the EU nations could agree to order military equipment together, they could cut costs significantly.
How will the alliance be realised?
The PESCO states intend to implement selected defence projects together in future. One proposal voiced by Federal Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen is for the PESCO states to establish a joint medical coordination centre with standardised training and equipment. Medical personnel could then be deployed more flexibly. Logistics could also be better coordinated.
The individual PESCO armies are to notify the European Defence Agency of their capabilities and capacities. There, the individual forces will be pooled to address common threats.
How does PESCO relate to NATO?
PESCO is to support and complement NATO. The transatlantic alliance will benefit from PESCO, since many EU nations will be members of both. A more effective European defence policy will thus also strengthen NATO. Through PESCO, Europe is signalling its readiness to take on more responsibility in the world.
Who can get involved?
EU member states that are part of the European Defence Agency and EU battlegroups, the European crisis intervention forces, can join PESCO. The aim is to involve all European Union member states in PESCO as far as possible. A smaller group of members is, however, possible.
How is the project developing?
Germany and France in particular are working for deeper military cooperation. In spring 2017 a joint agency was found that is to coordinate advisory and training missions. The German Cabinet has also adopted the cornerstones of PESCO. This is an "important national step", declared Federal Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen.