‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet’
It may sound odd to graft a quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet onto a study about EU defence cooperation. But what Juliet meant in the play – that she loves Romeo even if he is a Montague, because the form and substance of things may not always coincide – can easily be applied also to Permanent Structured Cooperation (PeSCo) and, in particular, to its evolution from the original purpose (as initially articulated in the Convention on the Future of Europe) to its actual implementation 15 years later. Explaining and analysing the driving as well as the constraining factors behind its genesis and transformation can hopefully help us better understand the circumstances and conditions under which it is currently being launched and could develop further.
Still barely predictable only a year ago, PeSCo could now indeed become a game changer for European defence cooperation. The flurry of initiatives that have entered the EU stage over the past few months testify to a fresh momentum in which even relatively old concepts and proposals are taking a new shape – and lease of life. The Military Planning and Conduct Capability, the European Defence Fund, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence and now also PeSCo have all made headway each in its own right, following a strictly functional logic driven by shared interests as well as practical needs, and as much by common sense as by common ground. In order to convey more clearly to EU citizens what they are all for, these building blocks should also find, sooner rather than later, a common roof – be it just a big tent, a mobile home or a dedicated institutional structure. For the time being, the speed and determination with which the EU and its member states have (re)engaged on defence cooperation – well beyond Common Security and Defence Policy proper – prove that Europeans are now becoming well aware of what is at stake in a rapidly mutating security environment.
For someone who has been in this business for 20 years (I started working for the then WEU ISS in December 1997), living through all the ups and downs, twists and turns of EU security and defence policy, all this is no minor source of relief – even rejoicing. This Chaillot Paper aims to map out the road travelled so far and its possible ramifications. Our hope is also that the speed and determination we are witnessing today will not abate and will add further substance to European defence cooperation in the months and years to come.