By: Emiliy Janicik
With confusion and uncertainty clouding the future of the European Union after an increasing number of terrorist attacks and Brexit, signs of a strengthening EU have emerged. On Nov. 13th, 2017, 23 out of the EU’s 28 member countries agreed to merge their military funding for equipment, research, and development. The agreement, known as Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), is considered an “historic achievement for European defense.”
The main proposal of PESCO is the reduction of waste and duplication of research between member states. Through this program, joint operations with NATO will become more efficient and effective, as a result of European cooperation. During negotiations, France favored a smaller group of “elite” nation’s leading the initiative, while Germany preferred to include all member nations to foster cooperation. In the end, Germany prevailed, with only the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal, and Malta sitting out.
While outsiders see PESCO as a sign of strength, it comes at a time of tension within the EU. The bill addresses the EU’s failure to defend Crimea from Russia in 2014, and Russia’s rising militarization. Brexit also rattled the EU, due to the UK being a major military power in Europe. Currently, increasing attacks from Islamic terrorists are causing more tension between governments, highlighting why cooperation is more important than ever.
The EU has had a longstanding alliance with NATO and the UK for military strength and security, but they are now breaking that norm. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany made remarks that alluded to the necessity of the EU becoming self-sufficient, due to President Trump’s distaste for NATO. The President has also issued harsh statements against European dependency on the US military. Most recently in Belgium, US soldiers had to give the Belgian military “hand-me-down flak jackets” in reaction to terrorist attacks. PESCO attempts to fix this by strengthening the EU and addressing gaps in military strategy between member states.
Similarly, the UK has been skeptical of joint military operations since their induction in the EU. Post Brexit, they have less reason to help bolster a costly program, which could infringe upon their sovereignty. The possibility of moving towards a “European Army” is unimaginable for the British, which has been a long-standing fear of the UK. Though there are currently no signs of a joint army being formed, the idea of decreased sovereignty unsettles them, sealing their disapproval of the bill.
Looking to the future, military cooperation is the best path towards stable peace for the EU. With shared resources, the EU can elevate their military strength in the international community, signaling to the UK and the US that they do not need their help. Through this cooperation, tensions in the European Union could decrease, as seen in the past with economic integration. PESCO will hopefully increase cooperation between member states, making Europe a safer place to live for all.