The European Council has adopted the decision to establish a European Union defense pact, known as PESCO. The 25 participating EU states are set to begin working on a series of joint-defense projects next year.
European Union member states on Monday moved ever closer toward establishing a defense union, after the European Council adopted the creation of a new European defense and security cooperation network known as PESCO.
The Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which was first set out in the Lisbon Treaty, will allow member states to jointly develop military capabilities, invest in shared projects and enhance their respective armed forces.
European defense ministers from 23 member states had initially signed a joint notification on PESCO on November 13, and handed it over for review to the EU's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, and the European Council.
On December 7, Portugal and Ireland announced their decision to join, taking the total number of contributing members up to 25. The countries that have chosen not to take part are Malta, Denmark - which has special opt-out status - and the UK (which is set to withdraw from the bloc in March 2019).
Mogherini, described the move as "historic," while European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hailed the move on Twitter, posting: "She is awake, the Sleeping Beauty of the Lisbon Treaty: Permanent Structured Cooperation is happening."
Although PESCO remains an intergovernmental program, the Commission said in a press release that it will prop up the network via its European Defense Fund. Money is set to be assigned for the acquisition of new defense equipment and technology, as well as to finance grants for research projects.
"She is awake, the Sleeping Beauty of the Lisbon Treaty," said Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, referencing the 2007 reform agreement that serves as the basis fort he modern EU.
"I welcome the steps taken today by member states to lay the foundations of a European Defence Union. Europe cannot and should not outsource our security and defense."
17 joint defense projects
Officials have earmarked 17 joint projects that will fall under the scope of the PESCO agreement. These include establishing a pan-European military training center, improving capability development and even introducing common standards for military radio communication.
Germany is to take the lead on four projects: the creation of a pan-European medical unit, a logistics hub, a center for training missions and an initiative to build up faster crisis response forces.
Those projects are expected to be formally adopted early next year, with participating countries also invited to propose additional programs.