As the most visible part of PESCO, the projects are important but not sufficient. More is needed to make of PESCO the long-yearned-for game changer expected to lift EU defence cooperation to a new level. It has to be used as a tool, a political instrument and framework for structured, sustainable deepening of European defence cooperation rather than just a collection of individual projects. Because PESCO’s ambition, unequivocally stated in the Treaty, was further defined in the notification the 25 participating Member States addressed to the Council last November: making PESCO the “most important instrument to foster common security and defence” and a tool intended to provide Europe with “a coherent full spectrum force package, in complementarity with NATO”.

The PESCO secretariat supports participating Member States for all PESCO-related matters including the work on evaluating their projects and contributing to the annual assessment of PESCO participants’ contributions and the fulfilment of the 20 binding commitments.

PESCO has great potential to change the way the EU Member States organise their defence cooperation, in a structured way with a permanent, long-term perspective based on the accountability of the participating Member States who have made more binding commitments to one another.

To be successful, it must tick at least four important boxes.


1. Respect of commitments

First and foremost, it is paramount to preserve the core aspect that differentiates PESCO from previous defence cooperation initiatives: the binding nature of the common commitments the 25 participating Member States have signed up to, in five different areas. The way PESCO is implemented and monitored should unambiguously reflect this binding character. Hopefully, it will trigger a change of mindsets in European Ministries of Defence where the “European collaborative approach” should be considered “as a priority” (commitment No.16) with a view to ensuring more common planning, harmonised requirements, joint capability development and a common use of forces in the future.

The mechanism in place to ensure Member States will actually live up to their commitments is built on the National Implementation Plans (NIPs) that participating Member States presented at the PESCO launch and which will be updated on an annual basis, outlining how each of them intends to meet its overall commitments and the more specific objectives to be fulfilled at each phase.

This much is certain: PESCO’s credibility and success stands and falls on the ambition with which the participating Member States fulfil their commitments as reported through the NIPs underpinned by a sound assessment process.

The PESCO secretariat is crucially involved in this sensitive part of the edifice, as it will assess the updated NIPs annually to determine if and to what extent the commitments are met. Based on the secretariat’s contributions, the High Representative (HR) of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will present an annual report to the Council, describing the status of PESCO implementation and assessing the fulfilment of commitments. Based on that report, it will be up to the Council to decide whether the participating Member States individually continue to fulfil their commitments or not.

PESCO is a central element of recent key EU initiatives aimed at bringing Member States cooperation in developing defence capabilities to an unprecedented level. This will enhance interoperability and effectiveness of forces, strengthen Europe’s industrial and technological base and ultimately increase overall security of European citizens”

2. Delivering on capability and operational gaps

In line with the Council Decision establishing PESCO, EDA is called to support PESCO with regard to capabilities, including facilitating capability development projects.

Capabilities needed to fill existing gaps identified by Member States, especially in the revised Capability Development Plan (CDP) approved end of June 2018 and the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) whose trial run will be completed in autumn. PESCO Member States have committed to helping “to overcome capability shortcomings identified under the Capability Development Plan (CDP) and CARD” (commitment No.15) and to taking part in “at least one project under PESCO which develops or provides capabilities identified as strategically relevant by Member States” (commitment No.17).

As the European forum for joint capability development, EDA is the natural place where joint capability projects, including PESCO projects, can be supported and brought to fruition. Account is taken of this fact in the PESCO commitments by which Member States agree to take part, where appropriate, “in the development of major joint or European equipment programmes in the framework of the European Defence Agency”. This is part of the commitments the PESCO participating Member States subscribed to. The conditions for the exceptional participation of third states in PESCO projects need to be further defined.

For its part, the EUMS is called upon to support the operational aspects of Member States’ contributions to PESCO in achieving the Union’s level of ambition. To successfully achieve the spectrum of military scenarios agreed by the Member States, the EUMS’s primary focus is twofold: supporting the bridging of those capability shortfalls that impact short to medium term EU military effectiveness and connecting already existing capabilities to enhance their operational effectiveness and to create operational formations. With regard to capability shortfalls, these principally are the high impact capability goals that simultaneously address numerous scenarios and therefore act as force- multipliers. The EUMS attention is on the interoperability, availability and employability of capabilities and forces, so as to help ensure that Member States’ forces and capabilities are connected and useable for EU operations and missions. Through PESCO, EU forces will more effectively and efficiently operate together, coherently, to achieve tactical, operational and strategic objectives.

As the process is currently underway to select the second batch of PESCO projects (participating Member States have until end of July to propose new projects), the PESCO secretariat is more than ever committed to promoting high-impact, high-value projects which can contribute to meeting the afore-mentioned capability requirements.

In today’s uncertain strategic environment, potential threats to the security and prosperity of the European Union are many and varied. A credible military capability must be the cornerstone of the EU’s integrated approach within CFSP. Through PESCO, the EUMS will strive to ensure that Member States are able to achieve the Union’s level of ambition, in a phased approach, through the delivery of appropriately trained, interoperable and connected forces and capabilities, which then can be rapidly generated and deployed to accomplish successful EU Operations and Missions if Member States so decide

3. Coherence with other EU initiatives

Third key prerequisite for PESCO’s success: it needs to be intertwined and coherent with other recent EU initiatives launched to boost defence cooperation, especially CARD and the European Defence Fund (EDF). While each of those initiatives has its specific added value, they all must complement each other in a coherent and coordinated manner, leading to increased output of European defence based on capability priorities agreed by the Member States.

PESCO is therefore embedded and part of a logic sequence of efforts which starts with the definition of the EU Capability Development Priorities (taking the revised CDP as a baseline) and the regular review of them (CARD), on the basis of which Member States should then decide to commonly plan, initiate and carry out joint capability development projects (PESCO). Some of those may be eligible for EU co-funding (under the EDF) and if they are linked to PESCO would even be eligible for an additional 10% ‘bonus’ in the co-funding share. Hence the need for a coherent, priority-driven implementation of all these initiatives, which the High Representative also in her capacity as Head of Agency and Vice President of the Commission will seek to promote, as requested by the Council.


4. Complementarity with NATO

Last but not least, although taken forward in the EU framework, PESCO is developing capabilities which remain owned and operated by the Member States – who can choose to make them available also to NATO operations or the UN. So PESCO will deliver more usable, deployable, interoperable and sustainable set of capabilities and forces of the Member States and will therefore also contribute to reinforcing the European contribution to NATO.

As rightly emphasised in the PESCO notification, “enhanced defence capabilities of EU Member States will also benefit NATO. They will strengthen the European pillar within the Alliance and respond to repeated demands for stronger transatlantic burden sharing”.

In carrying forward the PESCO initiative, the Council decision of December 2017 establishing PESCO explicitly says that EDA shall support Member States in ensuring “that there is no unnecessary duplication with existing initiatives also in other institutional contexts”, meaning that the Agency shall provide its full support to the Member States’ single set of forces.

As part of the PESCO secretariat, EDA pays particular attention to the impact proposed projects have on the coherence of the European capability landscape, but also on the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB). It is important that we choose the right projects with the right impact. At the end of the day, what we need is a more coherent set of deployable, interoperable, sustainable capabilities and forces

List of ambitious and more binding common commitments undertaken by participating Member States

    “a) cooperate, as from the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, with a view to achieving approved objectives concerning the level of investment expenditure on defence equipment, and regularly review these objectives, in the light of the security environment and of the Union’s international responsibilities.”

  1. Regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms, in order to reach agreed objectives

  2. Successive medium-term increase in defence investment expenditure to 20% of total defence spending (collective benchmark) in order to fill strategic capability gaps by participating in defence capabilities projects in accordance with CDP and Coordinated Annual Review (CARD)

  3. Increasing joint and “collaborative” strategic defence capabilities projects. Such joint and collaborative projects should be supported through the European Defence Fund if required and as appropriate

  4. Increasing the share of expenditure allocated to defence research and technology with a view to nearing the 2% of total defence spending (collective benchmark)

  5. Establishment of a regular review of these commitments (with the aim of endorsement by the Council)

    “b) bring their defence apparatus into line with each other as far as possible, particularly by harmonising the identification of their military needs, by pooling and, where appropriate, specialising their defence means and capabilities, and by encouraging cooperation in the fields of training and logistics.”

  6. Playing a substantial role in capability development within the EU, including within the framework of CARD, in order to ensure the availability of the necessary capabilities for achieving the level of ambition in Europe

  7. Commitment to support the CARD to the maximum extent possible acknowledging the voluntary nature of the review and individual constraints of participating Member States

  8. Commitment to the intensive involvement of a future European Defence Fund in multinational procurement with identified EU added value

  9. Commitment to drawing up harmonised requirements for all capability development projects agreed by participating Member States

  10. Commitment to considering the joint use of existing capabilities in order to optimise the available resources and improve their overall effectiveness

  11. Commitment to ensure increasing efforts in the cooperation on cyber defence, such as information sharing, training and operational support
  12. “c) take concrete measures to enhance the availability, interoperability, flexibility and deployability of their forces, in particular by identifying common objectives regarding the commitment of forces, including possibly reviewing their national decision-making procedures.”

  13. With regard to availability and deployability of the forces, the participating Member States are committed to:

    - Making available formations, that are strategically deployable, for the realisation of the EU LoA, in addition to a potential deployment of an EUBG. This commitment does neither cover a readiness force, a standing force nor a stand by force

    - Developing a solid instrument (e.g. a data base) which will only be accessible to participating Member States and contributing nations to record available and rapidly deployable capabilities in order to facilitate and accelerate the Force Generation Process

    - Aiming for fast-tracked political commitment at national level, including possibly reviewing their national decision-making procedures

    - Providing substantial support within means and capabilities to CSDP operations (e.g. EUFOR) and missions (e.g. EU Training Missions) - with personnel, materiel, training, exercise support, infrastructure or otherwise - which have been unanimously decided by the Council, without prejudice to any decision on contributions to CSDP operations and without prejudice to any constitutional constraints

    - Substantially contributing to EU BG by confirmation of contributions in principle at least four years in advance, with a stand-by period in line with the EU BG concept, obligation to carry out EU BG exercises for the EU BG force package (framework nation) and/or to participate in these exercises (all EU Member States participating in EU BG)

    - Simplifying and standardising cross border military transport in Europe for enabling rapid deployment of military materiel and personnel

  14. With regard to interoperability of forces, the participating Member States are committed to:

    - Developing the interoperability of their forces by:
      • Commitment to agree on common evaluation and validation criteria for the EU BG force package aligned with NATO standards while maintaining national certification
      • Commitment to agree on common technical and operational standards of forces acknowledging that they need to ensure interoperability with NATO
    - Optimising multinational structures: participating Member States could commit to joining and playing an active role in the main existing and possible future structures partaking in European external action in the military field (EUROCORPS, EUROMARFOR, EUROGENDFOR, MCCE/ATARES/SEOS).

  15. Participating Member States will strive for an ambitious approach to common funding of military CSDP operations and missions, beyond what will be defined as common cost according to the Athena council decision
  16. “d) work together to ensure that they take the necessary measures to make good, including through multinational approaches, and without prejudice to undertakings in this regard within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the shortfalls perceived in the framework of the ‘Capability Development Mechanism.”

  17. Help to overcome capability shortcomings identified under the Capability Development Plan (CDP) and CARD. These capability projects shall increase Europe’s strategic autonomy and strengthen the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB)

  18. Consider as a priority a European collaborative approach in order to fill capability shortcomings identified at national level and, as a general rule, only use an exclusively national approach if such an examination has been already carried out

  19. Take part in at least one project under the PESCO which develops or provides capabilities identified as strategically relevant by Member States
  20. “e) take part, where appropriate, in the development of major joint or European equipment programmes in the framework of the European Defence Agency.”

  21. Commitment to the use of EDA as the European forum for joint capability development and consider the OCCAR as the preferred collaborative programme managing organisation

  22. Ensure that all projects with regard to capabilities led by participating Member States make the European defence industry more competitive via an appropriate industrial policy which avoids unnecessary overlap

  23. Ensure that the cooperation programmes - which must only benefit entities which demonstrably provide added value on EU territory - and the acquisition strategies adopted by the participating Member States will have a positive impact on the EDTIB.

PESCO is a central element of recent key EU initiatives aimed at bringing Member States cooperation in developing defence capabilities to an unprecedented level. This will enhance interoperability and effectiveness of forces, strengthen Europe’s industrial and technological base and ultimately increase overall security of European citizens

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