• France - “We need coherent projects leading to concrete results”FR

    By: Philippe Errera, Director General for International Relations and Strategy, Ministry of Armed Forces, France

    Europe faces a highly unstable and uncertain strategic environment, subject to sweeping changes. It has to deal with the greatest concentration of challenges since the end of the Cold War, including a persistent terrorist threat, continuing vulnerabilities in the SahelSahara region, enduring destabilisation in the Middle East, major migration crises, the resumption of open warfare on its doorstep and displays of force on its territory stemming from Russia’s intimidation strategy.

    These destabilising factors need to be tackled to better protect our citizens. European nations must take on greater responsibility for their own security, hence the necessity to better coordinate our efforts and to foster our capacity to better anticipate, prepare, plan and act together when and where necessary

    This is exactly what we have started building over the past years, with historic progress in recent months. The increases in European defence budgets and the successful adaptation of NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, represent indispensable adjustments. In the EU, the initiatives we launched, or helped launch, such as PESCO, the EDF and CARD, form a consistent system of incentives for EU Member States to increase their defence cooperation. Taken all together, they will form the European Union’s contribution to developing greater European strategic autonomy.

    In particular, by launching PESCO, all 25 participating Member States agreed legally binding commitments and pledged to play a more active role in European defence. PESCO encourages a shared and common effort over the long run.

    In 2017, we laid down the foundations for its framework. Thanks to the strong involvement of Member States as well as to the key support provided by EDA and EUMS, we were able to launch PESCO in a timely manner. But this was only the first step. We now need to give PESCO substance. Our primary concern is to ensure that it moves at the speed of relevance. In this perspective, France sees two priorities.

    First, we must meet the commitments we have taken on. PESCO participants pledged to meet 20 legally binding and ambitious commitments. They embody our shared ambition for European defence. To this end, assessment mechanisms, such as those proposed by EDA, will play a critical role. PESCO must be a lever, not just a label.

    Second, simultaneously, projects will be the real test of PESCO. The numerous proposals made by partners since last summer are a sign of their enthusiasm and dynamism. The first 17 projects are now being operationalised and we must ensure that they deliver concrete results. In the coming years, the key issue will be to avoid dispersing our strengths. To this end, we must ensure that we build a coherent set of projects.

    PESCO is not an island, and it does not stand alone. It was designed in complementarity with the European Defence Fund and CARD. It is also reinforced by other endeavours developed on a bilateral and ad hoc basis.

    The European intervention initiative (EI2), in particular, will help develop and promote shared assessments and joint action when European security interests are threatened, whatever the framework in which European nations choose to act. It will further our shared strategic culture, drawing on PESCO’s political momentum, potentially both supporting current PESCO projects and drawing on them.

    These initiatives are also fully consistent with NATO. A strong European pillar within a strong transatlantic alliance is more necessary than ever.

    We, as Europeans, have been hard at work. We have set new goals and launched new initiatives. By doing so, we created expectations from our citizens and international partners. Disappointing them will only reinforce those who think the EU only produces speeches and acronyms. The mantra for the coming year must be: “make it real”. We must turn the promises we made last year into action.


    By: Dr Géza Andreas Von Geyr, Director General for Security and Defence Policy, Ministry of Defence, Germany

    Europe has accomplished something many believed was impossible: with PESCO, CARD, the EDF and other CSDP initiatives, we have taken our cooperation to a new level. We now have a historic opportunity to overcome old European small-state mentalities and pursue a completely new approach within the EU. We would call this the establishment of a European Defence Union. We have to join forces. Otherwise even the largest and strongest European National Forces will become irrelevant. In the long run, cooperation is a must.

    PESCO is a milestone in two respects. First, it is an integrative step that enhances commitment in terms of European defence policy. Second, it focuses on operations and will significantly contribute to fulfilling the EU Level of Ambition. Thanks to PESCO, we are leaping into cooperation at EU level. This means that collaboration between EU Member States is no longer ad hoc, but formal, sustainable and binding. This is a unique opportunity. The key thing now is to achieve real and tangible results. The new CSDP initiatives (CARD, PESCO, EDF) are great accomplishments but they are merely a starting point. Our aim must be to fill PESCO with life.

    2018 is the year we begin to implement PESCO. It is particularly important at this stage to fulfill the 20 PESCO commitments in a visible way. However, the successful implementation and development of the PESCO projects is equally important. Both will be a litmus test through which PESCO will be judged. Ensuring coherence among all CSDP initiatives will also be key. It will be important to make sure they all are interconnected, have compatible aims and are mutually reinforcing. This is the only way PESCO will improve the quality of EU defence cooperation and add value, so that the EU can become strategically more autonomous. What we want to achieve is interoperable capabilities and coherent formations to which all EU Member States contribute. These joint military assets will strengthen the military dimension of the EU’s crisis management efforts.

    Successful implementation and added value will not be achieved overnight, though. Like all reforms, our efforts to strengthen the CSDP will take time. Instead of rushing and potentially risk failure, we must proceed prudently and intelligently. As we go down this path, we will learn and also adapt our course as necessary. We should always bear in mind the big picture and make adjustments at EU level where needed, as for example recently with the establishment of a Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) for EU operations. It is also part of our responsibility to take a look at our own defence structures and continually ask ourselves what our national systems can deliver – without overburdening our Armed Forces.

    The aim of our efforts is to establish a European Defence Union. PESCO is the starting point, as well as a forum and political framework within which progress can be achieved. Other initiatives are important building blocks for even closer cooperation. The purpose of a European Defence Union will be to ensure that the EU is capable of joint action, together with partners, whenever such action is required to safeguard Europe’s security. We are thereby also living up to the responsibility that Germany and Europe bear in these uncertain times.

    There will be no second defence alliance with parallel structures to NATO – no duplication! On the contrary: a Europe that remains capable of action and that has at its disposal a wide range of conflict resolution tools – both civilian and military – supplements and strengthens NATO. It is very important to us to ensure that EU and NATO activities remain complementary. We will make sure that PESCO projects also fill NATO’s capability gaps, especially in the sphere of capability development. Capabilities developed through PESCO projects will remain with the respective EU Member States as part of each country’s single set of forces. That way, all Member States participating in a project can, at any time, make these capabilities available to NATO, the UN, the OSCE or use them in an entirely different context.

    Germany will continue to follow an inclusive approach ensuring all Member States remain part of the effort. Everyone agrees: we must do more to ensure our own security and that of Europe. We must therefore end the fragmentation of European defence. There is no credible alternative to thinking and acting from a European perspective and bundling our forces across national boundaries.

    Federal Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen got to the heart of it: “We want to stay transatlantic, but we also want to become more European.”


    By: Gianni Candotti, Defence Capabilities & Policy Director, Defence General Staff, Ministry of Defence, Italy

    Today’s geopolitical context requires strong EU leadership displayed both towards our citizens and the outside world. This leadership has to translate into more European involvement and willingness by our governments to work towards the common security and defence goals set by EU Global Strategy.

    Italy has always been in favour of strengthening the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in terms of capabilities in order to be able to respond to external crises and build partnerships more effectively. It should be our objective to develop more coherence, continuity, coordination and collaboration in order to move from the current state of cooperation to real integration within a binding political framework, capable of boosting the process.

    In this context, Italy sincerely believes that PESCO will significantly contribute to meeting the EU’s new Level of Ambition, including on capabilities and operational needs. Considering the challenging depicted scenario, and also having in mind the competitiveness of Europe’s defence industry on a global scale, we fully support the necessity for the EU to collectively foster the development of the full range of its own, independent technological and operational capabilities.

    This will translate into a coherent full spectrum set of forces with high-end equipment ready to be deployed in the most demanding EU missions and operations, potentially across all the domains: land, sea, air, cyber and space.

    We firmly believe that this will be facilitated by the development of common Member States’ defence capabilities and the implementation of the PESCO essence, throughout:

    • • multinational procurement projects (with the involvement of small and medium sized enterprises)

    • • cooperation among existing capabilities

    • • the exploitation of specific best practices applied in Member States

    • • the evaluation of real shortfalls in order to pinpoint possible solutions

    Furthermore, we think that PESCO’s concrete capability output will also be facilitated throughout a proper implementation and exploitation of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD). CARD’s correct application and its respect by all Member States will help to avoid duplication of efforts, guarantee full transparency on the EU Capability Development Plan (CDP) and ensure coherence with the NATO Defence Planning Process framework.

    Nevertheless, the development of financial instruments, including the so-called ‘toolbox’, will offer more opportunities for dedicated investments, favouring small and medium industrial companies in particular.

    Italy believes that the positive political momentum created by PESCO and the willingness to optimise the project selection criteria and governance rules will eventually produce remarkable results. In that regard, Italy is convinced that a strict focus on identified EU capability shortfalls combined with Member States’ strong commitment will allow PESCO to be output-oriented and prioritydriven, strongly supporting the overarching CSDP goals.

    Italy proposed a series of projects for the first ‘PESCO wave’ of which four have eventually been selected and approved. Since we are convinced of the importance of such cooperation, we adhered to another 11 projects thereby expressing our willingness to actively cooperate with other Member States, providing at the same time a solid boost to the initiative. Ad-hoc kick-off meetings have been already conducted for the four Italian projects and further workshops are on the way.

    By: Elena Gómez Castro, Defence Policy Director, Ministry of Defence, Spain

    It was at the dawn of the XXIst century when the EU started developing a security and defence policy and, in 2018, with the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), it reaches the age of majority. 25 Member States have signed up to PESCO. It is those of us “whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments with a view to the most demanding missions” (article 42.6 TUE). This represents an extraordinary milestone, with a direct impact in the operational and capability realms of the Europe of Defence. The capability development will provide a comprehensive toolbox to effectively address the increasing operational challenges and will reinforce the role of the EU as a sound security provider and a global actor. The strong bond between these two pillars, has been a major driver in our national approach to PESCO.

    PESCO will be the key driver of defence cooperation as it provides opportunities with long term impact, projects clearly owned and led by different Member States and which will be jointly developed.

    • • Overall, PESCO will contribute to close the gap between current capabilities and those required to meet the level of ambition set by the European Union Global Strategy.

    • • Secondly, it will enhance the effectiveness of CSDP missions and operations.

    • • Thirdly, PESCO will foster a more systematic, coordinated and synergic approach to capability development, enhancing the interoperability of our armed forces. This will need to go hand in hand with the stimulation of the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB), and will contribute to an improved architecture within the wider European industrial policies.

    • • Finally, it will provide wide room for improved understanding and cooperation with third countries and defence organisations. More specifically, through the strengthening of the ‘European pillar’ of the Alliance, we can expect a positive impact on EU-NATO cooperation.

    The greatest challenge rests on the fact that we need to build and adapt while business continues and other initiatives out of CSDP, like the European Defence Fund are still being shaped. We have worked hard and have been able to deliver at the speed of relevance, and now we must make sure that we set up the right rules and procedures to bed down the initiative. The Council recommendation adopted on the 6th of March sets the right path and ambitious timelines.

    A sound sequencing of commitments, a precise specification of objectives, along with efficient evaluation criteria for the eligibility of projects, will increase transparency while better aligning all actors. Furthermore, a common set of governance rules will ensure the coherent implementation of PESCO projects that provide true added value, addressing identified deficiencies in the Capability Development Plan.

    The strong political momentum generated by PESCO needs to be maintained. Along with France, Germany and Italy, Spain has tried to provide constructive ideas and will continue doing so. We have always believed that only by acquiring new commitments, by jointly providing better capabilities and by engaging in the most demanding missions will we be able to remain credible and reliable in providing security to our citizens.

    As the top ranking contributor to CSDP operations and missions, Spain has spared no efforts, providing around 30% of the total men and women in uniform under EU flagged operations and a dozen mission commands over the last decade, Spanish troops have been deployed in all EU military missions and operations since 2003.

    Considering that Command and Control is key to achieve strategic autonomy, Spain decided to take a step forward taking the lead of a PESCO project to provide the EU with a Command and Control (C2) autonomous capability, while participating in another 11 projects. This project will assist the strategic commanders, enhancing their capabilities in three areas: 1) military decision making process; 2) planning and conduct of missions and operations; and 3) coordination among deployed EU forces.

    Success of PESCO will only depend on the participating Member States commitment to deliver a two-fold output: CSDP missions and operations and capability development.

    A strong, credible, reliable and responsible EU. That is our goal. That is what our societies demand and what you expect of someone who has reached the age of majority.

    By: Pascal Heyman, Diplomatic Director of the Minister of Defence and Defence Policy Director, Belgium

    Over the past year, Defence Policy Directors have worked hard to activate the provisions of the EU Lisbon Treaty, which led to the Council decision of December 2017 and the emergence of the Permanent Structured Cooperation. I am proud to have been part of a great team of colleagues that achieved such an outstanding result in so little time.

    PESCO has the potential to be a game changer but its success will be highly dependent on participating States living up to their commitments, which include increased defence spending, and its progress not being hampered by fastidious bureaucratic processes and excessive control.

    A common vision requires agreement on what PESCO means but it is equally important to understand what it is not. PESCO’s aim is not ‘doing differently with the same’ but ‘doing more with more’. It is also not about the creation of a ’European army’. That, for many reasons, would be a ‘false good idea’. Instead, I see PESCO as an incubator for new initiatives that will boost European defence capabilities and operational capacities alike.

    No antagonism between EU and NATO
    PESCO also by no means constitutes an EU answer to NATO. Comparing it with NATO work strands would not only be irrelevant but ignore the very reason for its creation in the first place. By enhancing European defence efforts, PESCO will make Europe’s contribution to NATO more substantial and more effective. Antagonising the EU and NATO is a futile debate. The EU has its own level of ambition and set of tasks. For EU Member States that are at the same time NATO Allies, there should be no doubt that NATO remains the corner stone of collective defence. I do hope that we can remain pragmatic and stay clear of principled and pointless debates about a separate ‘strategic autonomy’.

    PESCO has been devised as an inclusive process and rightfully so. While the agreed commitments are both demanding and binding, a high level of ambition should above all be reflected in the actual output, because that is what ultimately will make the difference between success and failure. Projects should constitute the mainstay of the work; they should be derived from the Capability Development Process and focus on addressing existing capability shortfalls. That is the principle that should guide our choices when we decide on the second batch of projects later this year.

    EDA uniquely positioned to steer process
    EDA, with its Member States as key stakeholders, is uniquely positioned to steer this process forward for capability-related projects, while the European Military Staff (EUMS) should be in the lead for operational projects.

    As we have witnessed so far, the most effective defence cooperation initiatives are the result of bottom-up work between trusted partners. PESCO could reinforce and connect such efforts.

    While stimulating the development of a European defence technological and industrial base is among its objectives, PESCO should not become primarily driven by industrial agendas, nor should it constitute any attempt to close European defence markets for third states, which could deliver substantial added value through capabilities, specific expertise or financial contributions. We owe it to the European taxpayer to strive for the ‘best bang for the buck’ and our military deserve no less from us.

    By: Rudolf Štědrý, Former acting Defence Policy Director, now Deputy Defence Policy Director, Ministry of Defence, Czech Republic

    The Czech Republic sees the activation of PESCO as a stepping stone towards a more credible and efficient European defence cooperation.

    Participation in PESCO requires accepting 20 rather specific commitments. By doing so, all 25 participating Member States demonstrated that they are ready to share the burden and create conditions for a greater EU role in crisis management.

    The impact and long-term viability of PESCO will largely depend on the ability and readiness of PESCO Member States to fulfill PESCO’s binding commitments and devote adequate financial and human resources to this purpose. Its success will also be determined by Member States’ ability to propose and implement a balanced mix of both capability-oriented projects (which take into account the capability priorities defined in the Capability Development Plan, CDP) and operational projects. PESCO projects provide us with an opportunity to address European capability shortfalls, harmonise the European defence capability landscape and enhance interoperability and deployability of our forces.

    After a rather swift PESCO launch in December 2017, we should not be surprised if it produced only relatively small practical outcome in the short term. Setting up the right procedures at EU level, taking all required measures at home, and preparing well thought out projects are all prerequisites for future success. Furthermore, we have to deliver on all 20 commitments, not only on those involving selected PESCO projects.

    PESCO projects, even though answering EU needs, should always take into account that the purpose of developing better defence capabilities for Europe is to be able to better respond to current and future security challenges and threats. In this context our effort should truly contribute to strengthening the European pillar of NATO as well. We cannot allow any duplication with NATO, as the capabilities developed through PESCO and other existing EU defence initiatives will in the end serve all relevant actors, including the European countries themselves, the EU and NATO.

    In this regard, it would be a mistake to a priori exclude third countries from participation in PESCO (and EDF) projects as their ad hoc inclusion can provide a real added value and will contribute to the convergence of the European capability landscape.

    Recent EU defence initiatives (be it PESCO, EDF or CARD) put us in front of the challenge of how to ensure coherence and complementarity among them to avoid any unnecessary duplication of efforts, manpower and resources within the EU institutions but also within nations. This is particularly relevant for the discussions on the set up and functioning of the EDF and CARD where we should fully use the existing structures and expertise of EDA, as a central intergovernmental platform for multinational defence cooperation and capability development.

    As European citizens wait to see concrete results on how the EU can act to secure its interests and provide for their security, PESCO can be seen as a starting point for the EU to become a credible security actor and, ideally a model by which the EU will deliver tangible results in the area of defence, boosting the confidence of its citizens about its capabilities.

    PESCO implementation, in itself, is a daunting task and it would not be wise to let us be distracted, or even worse divided, by discussions on further integration leading to a possible European Defence Union. PESCO is here, and it is now the joint responsibility of all the PESCO Member States, with the support of EU institutions, to bring it to life and make it a long-term success.


    By: Janne Kuusela, Director-General, Defence Policy Department, Ministry of Defence, Finland

    For Finland, defence cooperation is important from the standpoint of defence capability and threat prevention. Membership of the European Union is for us a key security policy solution. This is why we continue to invest in the development of the EU’s defence policy. The Union has an important role to play as a facilitator and enabler for defence cooperation.

    In this regard, the launching of PESCO is a major step. We expect PESCO to become a driving force for defence investment, capability development and operational readiness. It is a broad framework for defence cooperation, set to tighten along the years. For us, joining PESCO was an easy decision to take.

    The inclusive format of 25 participating Member States is not the small group of able and willing Member States some anticipated. However, the fact that almost everyone wanted to join proves a willingness to work together. The binding commitments are at the heart of an inclusive PESCO and, in the long run, the element that sets it apart from previous defence initiatives. The commitments ensure that PESCO is here to stay. The Member States have pledged to report on progress in their annual National Implementation Plans.

    While PESCO is an important defence policy project, it has to be more than that. To succeed, PESCO must bring practical added value to the Defence Forces of the Member States. The commitments need to be translated into demand-driven projects. This is key to maintaining the necessary political momentum, but also more challenging than many realize. The political urgency easily clashes with planning timelines. The defence plans and budgets are not set in stone, but for all practical purposes they are tied until the 2030s with little room for improvisation. It is thus crucial to involve the Defence Forces in all decision-making.

    There are two sides to PESCO. First, it should help the Member States’ Defence Forces to achieve their objectives by providing incentives for cooperation. Second, it should bring these objectives closer to each other. A strategic and phased approach is required. We should both continue to set goals at the political level and respond to the needs from the bottom-up. Military Mobility is a good example of a PESCO project that can support our defence capabilities and help protect the Union and its citizens.

    PESCO must be seen together with the other new EU defence initiatives which complement each other. For example, the European Defence Fund supports the capability pillar of PESCO by boosting the development of equipment and technology. To ensure coherence, the initiatives need to build on the priorities of the revised Capability Development Plan. The big picture is about strengthening European defence, making cooperation the norm and building the capabilities of the future.

    By: Christoffer Jonker, Director International Affairs & Operations at the Ministry of Defence, Netherlands

    When our Defence Minister, Ank Bijleveld-Schouten, published her Defence White Paper last March, she introduced it as a realistic and future-oriented outline for the Dutch Armed Forces. On European defence cooperation, the White Paper is clear: the Netherlands is and will remain one of the leading nations within PESCO.

    We see PESCO as a valuable tool to intensify and structure European defence cooperation. PESCO creates additional political momentum for developing a stronger European defence and, in doing so, a stronger European pillar within NATO. PESCO allows a smaller group of countries to be more ambitious and to move forward more swiftly in the field of missions and capability development. PESCO is therefore a means to keep European defence cooperation at the top of the European agenda in order to bring it to the next level in terms of output.

    ‘Less is more’
    That next level has to be tangible. We have to be pragmatic and set realistic and achievable ambitions. As many of my colleagues will know, we believe that in this case ‘less is more’.

    We can only reach the next level with a step-by-step approach. This approach is also followed in the PESCO project we lead: Military Mobility. This summer, we aim for a Military Mobility pledge by Heads of Governments and States at the European Council and at the NATO Summit. This pledge should contain concrete ambitions for progress to be made in the field of moving our troops and personnel swiftly throughout the continent. We aim for national action plans on reducing red tape which today stand in the way of Military Mobility by simplifying diplomatic clearance procedures in the individual Member States.

    Avoiding red tape
    Red tape should also be avoided within the PESCO framework. Following a realistic and pragmatic approach requires a flexible and light set of governance rules. There are at least two reasons why PESCO should be flexible and light in terms of governance. First, flexibility allows Member States to bring in different types of projects. These range from more political projects, such as Military Mobility, to common procurement projects, such as Maritime Mine Countermeasures, the Cyber Domain and Radio Communication. The different types of projects should allow for flexibility in order to reach these objectives. Second, a rigid and bureaucratic PESCO would fail to prompt Member States to start new PESCO projects. The alternative of flexible international defence cooperation outside of PESCO – in which many EU partners have a long tradition – becomes thereby far more attractive. Hence a risk for European defence cooperation.

    Aiming at tangible output
    The Netherlands wholeheartedly supports the PESCO initiative – provided it delivers concrete capabilities or operational capacity. Engaging with other EU Member States in defence cooperation is promising. Cooperation is a way of working that we, the Netherlands, have a lot of historical experience with. Our cooperation within Benelux and with Germany are a kind of PESCO avant la lettre. Simultaneously, we need to be able to explain these new initiatives to our parliaments and to our peoples.

    We intensified European defence cooperation for the benefit of them, to safeguard our common security.

    Only if we achieve this, PESCO will have become the success we wanted it to be. Only then will European defence cooperation become the new standard, and no longer the exception.

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