Efforts made by 23 European Union member states towards launching Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on defence were welcomed by the European Commission on November 13.

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 signed a joint notification and handed it to High Representative Federica Mogherini.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has been calling for a stronger Europe on security and defence since his election campaign. In April 2014 he said: “I believe that we need to take more seriously the provisions of the existing Treaty that allow those European countries who want to do this to progressively build up a common European defence. I know this is not for everybody. But those countries that would like to go ahead should be encouraged to do so.”

According to Juncker, pooling defence capacities in Europe “makes perfect economic sense”.

This same ambition was set out in his three-point plan for foreign policy, which was incorporated in the Political Guidelines – the Juncker Commission’s political contract with the European Parliament and the European Council.

As outlined in a European Commission statement, PESCO is a Treaty-based framework and process to deepen defence cooperation amongst EU member states which are capable and willing to do so. It will enable member states to jointly develop defence capabilities, invest in shared projects and enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces.

Following the November 13 notification, the Council should adopt a formal decision establishing PESCO by the end of the year, with the first projects to be identified in parallel.

The European Defence Fund, which was launched by the Commission in June, is aimed at boosting collaborative projects in the area of defence research, prototype development and joint acquisition of capabilities.

According to the Commission, the November 13 notification marks an important step towards creating a fully-fledged European Defence Union by 2025, as Juncker stressed in his State of the Union address in September.