The US and some of their non-EU allies have again expressed their concerns, faced with the development of a so-called “Europe of Defence”, fearing that it could ultimately weaken NATO. Up to now, NATO has been the single recognised institution for the collective defence of its 29 member countries.
These fears, revived by the launch last December of the European Permanent Structured Cooperation (PSC or Pesco, to use its acronym) by 25 EU countries, were raised by defence ministers of the allied countries, during a two-day meeting in Brussels.
PESCO is described by the EU as a framework for defence cooperation and a step towards the development of the EU’s common defence policy. It aims, amongst other aspects, to lead collectively to increased and more efficient defence investments in military equipment.
Member States participating in PESCO have identified an initial list of 17 projects. These initial projects are expected to be adopted formally by the Council in early 2018.
The US Defence Secretary, James Mattis, appeared to be satisfied with the conclusions of the debate on Thursday.
He stated during a press conference, “There is a clear understanding to include in a written EU document that common defence is a NATO mission, and a NATO mission alone.”
The press briefing followed a meeting at the Brussels headquarters of the NATO Alliance. The NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, wished to provide reassurance and spoke of the “strategic importance” of the cooperation between both NATO and the EU. He welcomed the European decisions (the launch of the PSC and other defence projects) which are “able to complement NATO’s work.”