The Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in the area of security and defence policy was established by a Council decision on 11 December 2017, with 25 EU Member States participating: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.
The possibility for Member States to engage in PESCO - on a voluntary basis - was introduced by article 42(6) of the Lisbon Treaty on European Union (TEU) which provides that those Member States whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria, and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area, shall establish a permanent structured cooperation within the EU framework.
PESCO allows thus willing and able member states to jointly plan, develop and invest in shared capability projects, and enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces. The aim is to jointly develop a coherent full spectrum force package and make the capabilities available to Member States for national and multinational (EU CSDP, NATO, UN, etc.) missions and operations.
Ambitious and more binding common commitments
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.
Initial list of 17 PESCO projects
An initial list of 17 projects to be developed under PESCO was adopted by the Council in March 2018. The projects cover areas such as training, capability development and operational readiness in the field of defence. Preparations for a second batch of projects are underway.
The first 17 approved projects cover the following topics/domains:
- European Medical Command
- European Secure Software defined Radio (ESSOR)
- Network of Logistic Hubs in Europe and Support to Operations
- Military Mobility
- European Union Training Mission Competence Centre (EU TMCC)
- European Training Certification Centre for European Armies
- Energy Operational Function (EOF)
- Deployable Military Disaster Relief Capability Package
- Maritime (semi-) Autonomous Systems for Mine Countermeasures (MAS MCM)
- Harbour & Maritime Surveillance and Protection (HARMSPRO)
- Upgrade of Maritime Surveillance
- Cyber Threats and Incident Response Information Sharing Platform
- Cyber Rapid Response Teams and Mutual Assistance in Cyber Security
- Strategic Command and Control (C2) System for CSDP Missions and Operations
- Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle / Amphibious Assault Vehicle / Light Armoured Vehicle
- Indirect Fire Support (EuroArtillery)
- EUFOR Crisis Response Operation Core (EUFOR CROC).
The European External Action Service (EEAS), including the EU Military Staff (EUMS), and the EDA jointly act as the PESCO Secretariat, offering a single point of contact for participating Member States. Within the secretariat, the main roles of the EEAS/EUMS are to contribute to the HR/VP’s annual assessment of participating Member States’ contributions with regard to operational aspects, and to coordinate the assessment of PESCO projects proposals notably in the areas of availability, interoperability, flexibility and deployability of forces. The EDA, for its part, supports the annual assessment of PESCO Member States’ contributions with regard to capabilities. The Agency also facilitates capability development projects under PESCO, in particular by coordinating the assessment of projects proposals in the area of capability development. EDA also support Member States in ensuring that there is no unnecessary duplication with existing initiatives also in other institutional contexts.
PESCO Common Workspace
The PESCO Secretariat has also set up a PESCO Common Workspace, in the form of a web-based tool https://cws.pesco.europa.eu), to support participating Member States in sharing information on PESCO projects and project proposals. Based on the EDA’s Collaborative Database (CODABA), the workspace is a user-friendly software which enables easy contributions from Member States and provides a collaborative platform for information exchange. On the one hand, it allows PESCO participating Member States to publish their own projects and project proposals, and to express interest in those of other Member States, thus promoting cooperation. On the other hand, it provides the assessment of project proposals and NIPs carried out by the PESCO Secretariat.
PESCO Projects governance
On 25 June 2018, the Council adopted a Decision establishing the common set of governance rules for the PESCO projects. While PESCO membership is only for those Member States who have undertaken the more binding commitments, third States may exceptionally participate at the level of PESCO projects. As a first step, the Council envisages to develop the general conditions under which third states may exceptionally be invited to participate in PESCO projects. The Council will decide whether a third State meets these requirements. Following a positive decision, the project may then be included into an administrative arrangement with the concerned third State, in line with procedures and decision-making autonomy of the Union.
Link between PESCO and other EU defence initiatives
PESCO is closely connected to the new Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the European Defence Fund (EDF), as well as to the revised 2018 Capability Development Plan (CDP) and its 11 EU Capability Development Priorities jointly identified by Member States. All of them are complementary and mutually reinforcing tools supporting Member States' efforts in enhancing defence capabilities:
- the revised CDP identifies the capability priorities Member States should focus their common efforts on;
- CARD provides an overview of existing capabilities in Europe and where opportunities for cooperation exist;
- PESCO offers options how to plan and bridge capability gaps in a collaborative manner;
- and the EDF provides financial incentives for Member States to foster defence cooperation from research to the development phase of capabilities including prototypes through co-financing from the EU budget. PESCO projects may benefit from increased EU co-financing, which could amount to 30% - instead of 20% - for prototypes.