PESCO is meant to lead to deeper military cooperation within the European Union, project financing, development of military technology and strengthening of the EU's defense industry.
Defence and foreign ministers from the 23 countries on Monday signed a notification of their intention to establish the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which allows countries to cooperate more closely on security operations and building up military capability. Denmark has a defence opt-out from European Union treaties while Portugal, Ireland and Malta have not made a formal decision to join.
The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini hailed the agreement as "a new page of European defence", saying countries had already proposed more than 50 projects. "The real problem is not how much we spend, it is the fact that we spend in a fragmented manner".
Also, warnings by U.S. President Donald Trump that European allies must pay more towards their security seemed to have propelled the project forward. The PESCO drive however has revealed strains between Paris and Berlin, with the French pushing for a smaller group of nations committed to ambitious projects and Germany wanting a more inclusive arrangement with as numerous bloc's 27 members - minus Britain - as possible. Member states who choose to sit out now can join later - subject to approval by the early adopters. Germany wanted the pact to include as many countries as possible while France wanted it to be as militarily ambitious as possible, they said.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said it was important for Europe to stand on its own feet when it comes to security and defense - "especially after the election of the US President", referring to President Donald Trump's dismissive attitude towards North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. "It has no chance of working".
Mogherini declined to say if she thinks there was external interference in Lebanon. The EU, she said, has tools to fight hybrid warfare - the use of conventional weapons mixed with things like propaganda and cyber-attacks - that the American-led military alliance does not have at its disposal.
The agreement commits countries to "regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms" as well as devoting 20 percent of defence spending to procurement and two percent on research and technology. "This could develop new products and help increase efficiency in Europe".