The Council adopted a recommendation assessing the progress made by the 26 participating member states to fulfil the more binding commitments undertaken in the framework of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
The Council underlines that participating member states have continued to make progress in increasing their defence expenditures, with 12% growth in 2023 and further increases forecast for 2024-2025. Furthermore, 25% of the total defence expenditure allocated to defence investment in 2022 was used to accelerate the procurement of needed capabilities and the replenishment of stocks with predominantly off-the-shelf procurement in search of immediate solutions.
Through PESCO, the Council assesses the first implications of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine for the security and defence policies of member states, illustrated by initial changes in national plans to secure capabilities for high intensity warfare, including strategic enablers. The Council notes higher interest in the use of the EU capability development tools and initiatives and encouraged continued use of the European Defence Agency as the principal European forum for joint capability development.
In its recommendation, the Council calls for a combined effort to reverse the decline in defence research and technology spending (from 1.7% to 1.1%) and maintain the focus on development and innovation, as well as on joint procurement of needed capabilities. This will help strike the right balance between long-term innovation for future capabilities and adequate quantities of military equipment and stockpiles, also with a view to strengthening the European defence industry. Furthermore, the Council calls for more European collaborative approach in addressing capability gaps and encourages member states to invest more and better, by doing it together.
The Council encourages participating member states to make further progress in the implementation of the 20 more binding commitments, with a view to fulfilling all of them by 2025, and to use the PESCO framework alongside other defence-related initiatives and processes such as the Capability development Plan (CDP), the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the European Defence Fund (EDF). Furthermore, they are invited to take forward potential new opportunities in relation to joint procurement under the PESCO framework.
When it comes to the 68 on-going projects, the Council welcomes the fact that PESCO projects are already producing concrete deliverables in areas such as cyber, unmanned systems, military mobility, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear surveillance and medical services, among others. Several PESCO projects have taken measures to rapidly increase the availability and effectiveness of their capabilities in the face of the challenges presented by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Countering unmanned aerial systems, medical support, and protection of maritime critical infrastructure are some of the examples.
The Council decided to launch the PESCO Strategic Review with a reflection phase. The Strategic Review, which is to be concluded by the end of 2025 at the latest, provides a major opportunity to shape the future of PESCO and adapt it to the geopolitical context, while keeping up the ambition. The PESCO Strategic Review will reinvigorate and strengthen PESCO.
PESCO provides a framework for defence cooperation among participating member states that have entered into more binding commitments between one another. They jointly develop defence capabilities, coordinate investments, enhance the operational readiness, interoperability and resilience of their armed forces and collaborate in projects.
On 11 December 2017, the Council adopted Decision (CFSP) 2017/2315 establishing PESCO, determining the list of participating member states and providing for an annual Council review of member states’ fulfilment of binding commitments. In May 2023, Denmark joined PESCO and 11 new projects were added to the list with now 68 PESCO projects.