EU defence cooperation: Council sets conditions for third-state participation in PESCO projects

The Council today established the general conditions under which non-EU countries could exceptionally be invited to participate in individual PESCO projects, thereby paving the way for stronger and more ambitious defence cooperation with partners in the EU framework.

Thanks to today’s decision third states that can add value to a PESCO project may be invited to participate if they meet a number of political, substantive and legal conditions.

For instance, the country applying for a project must share the values on which the EU is founded, must not contravene the security and defence interests of the EU and its member states, and must have an agreement to exchange classified information with the EU, among others.

This further step in the consolidation of PESCO will enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy and strengthen its capacity to act as a security provider, together with its partners.

In practice, after a third state submits a request to participate in a specific PESCO project, project members will need to agree by unanimity whether the request complies with all conditions, and notify the Council and the High Representative accordingly. It is for the Council to take the final decision as to whether the participation of the third state in the project meets the necessary conditions.

Once a third state has been accepted, project members will negotiate an administrative arrangement with that third state, defining the start date, duration, termination and stages of participation. The decision also includes a review mechanism that will allow to periodically review whether the third-state participant continues to meet the conditions.

As far as entities are concerned, the exact conditions and procedures for their involvement in the implementation of PESCO projects will be decided at a later stage. After 31 December 2021, entities established in, controlled by or having their executive management structures in a third state which has not been invited to participate in a PESCO project may only become involved if the Council so decides. Furthermore, if a member state has security-related concerns regarding the involvement of an entity in the implementation of a PESCO project, it may refer the matter to the Council.


The Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, is one of the building blocks of the EU’s Defence policy.
It was set up in 2017 to enable EU member states to work more closely together in the area of security and defence. This permanent framework for defence cooperation allows willing and able member states to jointly develop defence capabilities, invest in shared projects, and enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces.

To date 25 EU Member States have undertaken the more binding commitments that form the basis of PESCO. There are currently 47 collaborative projects in various areas: training facilities, land formation systems, maritime and air systems, cyber, and enabling joint multiple services or space.

The 25 member states participating in PESCO are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.