EU Member Nations Sign Defense Pact

PATRICK HERTZOG  AFP  Getty

European Union foreign and defense ministers from 23 of the 28 member countries, signed a landmark defense agreement Monday in Brussels aimed to boost post-Brexit cooperation within the bloc and to counter Russian pressure.

Member states participating in PESCO will aim to simplify the transportation of military supplies and units within Europe, which is an important goal for Estonia.

European Union Foreign Ministers, who are meeting on Monday in Brussels, will hear EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini report on her recent lobbying trip to the us on the Iran nuclear deal. At that the member states retain their sovereign right to leading their own national defense.

European Union officials have identified defense as an area where they have made progress on multiple fronts since Britain voted to leave. The EU, she said, has tools to fight hybrid warfare - the use of conventional weapons mixed with things like propaganda and cyber-attacks - that the American-led military alliance does not have at its disposal.

Earlier this year, the European Commission launched a major financial incentive for countries to cooperate on defense procurement, with a new European Defense fund worth €5.5 billion per year.

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The EU's diplomatic chief, Ms Federica Mogherini, hailed the agreement as "a new page of European defence", saying countries had already proposed more than 50 projects.

Britain's impending departure made it easier to get the project off the ground as London has traditionally been skeptical about EU military cooperation, seeing North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as the main vehicle for common European defense efforts. "The real problem is not how much we spend, it is the fact that we spend in a fragmented manner".

Under PESCO, EU countries will commit to increase military spending, but not to specifically adhere to NATO's bottom line of moving towards 2 percent of gross domestic product for defense budgets by 2020.

Gabriel said working together is "more economical than if everyone does the same".

"I'm a firm believer of stronger European defence, so I welcome PESCO because I believe that it can strengthen European defence, which is good for Europe but also good for NATO", Stoltenberg said.

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