The key difference between PESCO and other forms of cooperation is the legally binding nature of the commitments undertaken by the participating Member States. The list of ‘ambitious and more binding common commitments’ undertaken by each of the participating Member States contains 20 individual commitments related to five key undertakings, namely to:
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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’
- take part, where appropriate, in the development of major joint or European equipment programmes in the framework of the European Defence Agency (EDA). Commitment to the use of EDA as the European forum for joint capability development and consider the OCCAR as the preferred collaborative program managing organization.
To fulfil the commitments, participating Member States have to adopt National Implementation Plans (NIPs) which are to be reviewed (and updated as appropriate) annually. The NIPs outline how the individual countries intend to meet the more binding commitments and how they plan to fulfil the more precise objectives that are to be set at each phase. The updated NIPs are communicated annually to the EEAS and the EDA, and are made available to all PESCO participating Member States.
On 22 March 2019, HR/VP/Head of EDA Federica Mogherini submitted to the Council the first 'Annual Report on the Status of PESCO Implementation'. Based on the assessment conducted by the PESCO secretariat (made up by EEAS, including EU Military Staff, and EDA), it describes the status of PESCO implementation, including the fulfilment by each participating Member State of the commitments in accordance with its NIPs which have been presented to the PESCO secretariat and shared among all participating Member States. This Annual Report is completing the first annual PESCO cycle and will serve as the baseline for the Council to continue reviewing once a year, how the participating Member States fulfill the more binding commitments.
On 14 May 2019, based on the afore-mentioned report by the HR/VP/Head of EDA, the Council discussed PESCO after its first full year of implementation and adopted a recommendation assessing the progress made by the participating Member States to fulfil the commitments undertaken in the PESCO framework.