Ana Belén Perianes holds a Phd in International Peace and Security and is the coordinator of Spanish Women in International Security (SWIIS)
Spain is one of the 25 EU Member States participating in the Permanent Structure Cooperation (PESCO) with the objective of moving forward on real integration in the field of defense of the Union, ina context of serious geopolitical challenges than any country cannot face alone.
The European Council approved on December 11th a decision establishing PESCO, almost a month has passed since 23 Member States jointly notified to the High Representative for the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and to the Council their intention to join the project (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden). Ireland and Portugal would notify their decision to participate in the PESCO on December 7th.
The Decision establishing the Permanent Structured Cooperation defined, besides the list of Member States participating, the list of common compromises, the governance of the mechanism and its administrative dispositions, an initial list of 17 projects that will be carry out in the framework of cooperation.
The final approval of the launch of the Permanent Structured Cooperation took place after the Summit of EU Head of State and Government held the 14th and 15th December.
The PESCO is key regarding the revitalization of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. This framework provides a flexible formula of cooperation like the “two speed Europe”, as opposed to the other two fields in which it has been previously agreed an enhanced cooperation in the EU, the ones referred to the Euro and Schengen. Thus, the States participating will be able to advance voluntarily with more intensity and velocity in security and defense jointly developing abilities in the search for more efficiency, coordination and interoperability of its systems.
In short, the participation in each project will be voluntary and the capacity to make decisions regarding its participation in the former ones will continue to be hold by Member States.
With its incorporation to PESCO, Spain assumes several compromises, such as the ones referred to the regular increase of the defense budget in real terms to achieve the objectives set; the successive increase in the medium term of the investment spending in defense up to 20% of the total expenditure in theses aspects; the increase of joint and collaborative projects of defense strategic capacity; the reinforcement of the expenditure designated to investigation and technology with the intention of comply with the objective of 2% of total expenditure in defense as a collective objective; the periodic revision of these compromises and the development of the necessary capacities to guarantee a level of ambition of the EU in enhanced cooperation in the field of security and defense.
For the EU it is key to maximize the efficiency of the resources available, because even it employs the second largest budget in defense in the planet, its military relevance is not proportional to such expenditure due to the problems of efficiency and coordination.
The victory of Brexit and the volatility and unpredictability which have characterized the foreign policy of the current US administration towards Europe, in the absence of a more than necessary common political project and in a context of shared crisis, demonstrated that the Union had to adapt to a new geostrategic reality politically propelling its cooperation in the field of security and defense.
On the one side, after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of the European Union, it loses one of the States with more expenditure in defense and that, apart from having nuclear capacity, is a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations. On the other side, it is key for the analysis to highlight European dependency in the field of defense and security in the American umbrella (USA supports 72% of the total cost of the NATO).
President Trump declarations criticizing his European allies for not assuming the expenses of its own security and advocating for the necessity to review the US finance to the NATO logically alarmed the leaders of the EU, since a significative withdrawal of the funds USA gives to the Alliances will bring undeniable consequences for our security.
Moreover, Member States face other important challenges such as the lack of budget allocation for its Security Forces, the horizon of 2024 to achieve the compliance with the compromise of the NATO in defense expenditure of 2% and the necessity to encourage the culture of security and defense and the political and citizen debate concerning the matters related to security and defense.
European cooperation in the field of security and defense is not something new, instead it is an unsatisfied ambition which already was part of the European project since its beginning. The Treaty of Lisbon already considered the Permanent Structure Cooperation since it foresaw the possibility that some States of the EU collaborate more closely in the field of security and defense policy.
During last year and a half, we have witnessed historical achievements towards an enhanced cooperation in the field of security and defense. Since the approval of the New Strategy of Global Security of the Union in June 2016 and following landmarks such as the Cooperation Declaration NATO-EU, the Summit of Bratislava, the approval of the Action Plan of European Defense and of the 42 measures of implementation of the agreement NATO-EU, the Summit of Rome, the presentation of the document “An Europe that defends and protects”, the activation of the Battle Group Packages, the Coordinate Revision in Annual Defense or the European Found of Defense, we find today in the formalization of a political compromise of advancing towards the European integration in security and defense.
Nevertheless, despite this progress,Member States will need to continue working in the strengthening of its degree of solidarity and political compromise with the objective of guaranteeing the own security and strategic autonomy of the Union, with a coherent foreign policy. Only thus the EU will be able to demand the global leadership it deserves.
Translated by María Maseda Varela