What is your assessment of the implementation of PESCO so far? Is it sufficiently operations-minded?

The stated aim of PESCO is “to jointly develop defence capabilities and make them available for EU military operations” in order to enhance the EU’s capacity as an international security partner. PESCO has the potential to achieve this, and its implementation process is definitely heading in that direction. But PESCO collaborative projects will not only address current operational shortfalls in CSDP operations and missions; they should also enable the Union to achieve strategic autonomy in the field of security and defence.

At the same time, it is important to underline that, no matter how efficient it will prove to be, PESCO by itself does not provide a comprehensive response to the problem at hand. Therefore, any discussion on PESCO would be incomplete if it didn’t take into account the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the European Defence Fund (EDF), which are all interconnected.

How can PESCO projects be guaranteed to lead to capabilities and assets that meet the requirements of current and future CSDP missions?

When it comes to capabilities and requirements, the end-user’s point of view is crucial. And the end-user of defence capabilities is the military. Therefore, I am convinced that the military, together with industry, should play a central role in order to maximise the effects of PESCO projects and ensure they lead to capabilities and assets which effectively meet Member States Armed Forces’ requirements.

The military are those who, better than any other, know which capabilities and assets are critical, and which are just a ‘nice to have’.

The military are also the ones able to assess capabilities against possible scenarios and identify and prioritise gaps. It’s then up to industry to provide options and solutions to address those shortfalls.

Based on key parameters like usability, deployability and sustainability, it should be the military’s task to evaluate to what extent a project satisfies the afore- mentioned requirements.

Looking at the first batch of PESCO projects: where do you see the biggest potential for fast, significant and durable improvements of CSDP missions and operations?

As said, PESCO has the potential to change the way we, Europeans, handle our defence and, for this same reason, it may lead to further political integration in Europe.

However, to reach this ambitious goal, PESCO needs to deliver tangible results.

Quick successes and results, even under smaller projects, will demonstrate PESCO’s added value and benefits for participating Member States. This, in turn, will encourage a higher level of cooperation on more ambitious projects, making PESCO a self-sustained process.

Until this happens, however, our full attention and commitment are needed to identify and remedy teething problems that will most certainly appear.

PESCO can change the way Europeans handle their defence

Does the first list of projects strike the right balance between the different operational domains (land, air, maritime, cyber), training and exercises, joint and enabling capabilities? Where would you like to see more emphasis in the following batch of projects?

The EU Member States participating in PESCO have set a first collaborative PESCO project list identifying, both in the operational and in the capability development area, some specific projects able to contribute to an output–oriented implementation of PESCO. These projects also ensure an effective balance between optimising the use of those resources already available and improving overall effectiveness of CSDP Operations and Missions. At the same time, these first PESCO projects guarantee effective support to the three main core tasks identified by the EU Global Strategy, namely, responding to external conflicts and crises, building the capacities of partners and protecting the European Union and its citizens through external action.


In November, you will hand over the EUMC chairmanship to General Claudio Graziano. Looking back, how would you describe the evolution of the cooperation between the EUMC and EDA, and where do you see potential for improvements?

In November I will hand over the EUMC chairmanship after a challenging yet exciting tour at the service of the European defence. Looking back, political conditions are now mature for deeper integration in the domain of security and defence and to use the Lisbon Treaty to its full potential.

As our High Representative, Federica Mogherini, recently stated, we are now definitely “building on vision” (that of our founding fathers) and ready for “delivering” and “moving forward to action”.

PESCO is a significant example of European integration in the domain of security and defence besides other important defence initiatives underway.

I am convinced that CARD will help foster capability development, deepen defence cooperation and ensure more optimal use of defence spending. The European Defence Fund, for its part, will effectively support the joint development of defence equipment and technologies as well as investments in joint research, with positive repercussions on the effectiveness of CSDP.

In this framework, EDA plays a key role, in coordination with other EU institutions.

The EU Global Strategy has set the way to fulfil the EU’s level of ambition in the area of security and defence. The EU Military Committee has taken up the challenge and is effectively cooperating with all EU institutions, including EDA, in order to keep up this new momentum.

I am convinced my successor, General Claudio Graziano, will keep up this level of engagement. As we continue this journey, our citizens, our neighbours and partners will increasingly benefit from an enhanced European security and defence policy.

The pace will not relent and our resolve to push defence matters to the top of the EU Agenda will not weaken. We deserve a stronger Europe!


What do you expect to be the biggest operational impact of the Military Mobility project for European Armed Forces?

 European and NATO Forces need to react swiftly to any crisis or threat throughout Europe. The PESCO Military Mobility project will enhance their deployment by enabling freedom of movement for military personnel and equipment in the most optimised way possible and will strengthen their posture. The Military Mobility project is multinational, complex and faces many challenges. The Netherlands, as lead nation of Military Mobility, is dedicated to take these challenges on in close cooperation with its EU partners and NATO.

Is there a risk of seeing MoDs, the EU and NATO competing with each other for scarce but indispensable civil and commercial transport capacities? How to avoid such a situation?

The Movement and Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE) already coordinates the use of scarce transport capacities. On top of that EU nations and NATO nations participate in EU PESCO and/or NATO Framework Nation Concept projects.

Also, bilateral or multilateral coordination mechanism are in place to assure optimum use of scarce transport capacities, e.g. through the German-Netherlands Joint Support Steering Group. On a daily basis the Netherlands actively engages the MCCE, for instance when participating in exercises like Trident Juncture. Military planners continuously combine efforts to avoid competition and to have optimal coordination of the use of scarce transport capacities.

Most EU nations are also NATO Members. It’s not the organisations that compete for scarce resources, but their member-nations that have to carefully plan the commitment of own means within their single set of forces and commercially available transport capabilities. In the end not competition, but prudent planning and cooperation between nations will secure optimal availability of indispensable transport capabilities.

Could one imagine a future multilateral, European initiative to procure, pool and share assets for military sealift or rail/road transport, similar to the Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF) initiated by EDA in the AAR domain?

Yes, as a matter of fact the Netherlands initiated the MMF-project and together with Belgium, Germany and France the Netherlands started the European Air Transport Command (EATC) prior to that initiative. These projects as well as the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) in Hungary are proven concepts of successful airlift programmes based on Pooling & Sharing. One could imagine that similar programmes for other air, sea, rail or road transport can be seen as opportunities. Sharing scarce transport capacities including road transport is common practice at the MCCE.

Previous article