European Union states sign key pact to boost defence cooperation

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PESCO will not compete with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, as the latter specialises in collective defence, whereas bolstered defence cooperation among Europeans is created to ensure that the EU can respond to various situations overseas in a more prompt and efficient manner, claim European diplomats.

This permanent framework for defense cooperation will allow those member states willing and able to jointly develop defense capabilities, invest in shared projects, or enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, right, speaks with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen during a meeting of European Union foreign and defense ministers at the Europa building in Brussels, Monday, Nov.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini described the signing of PESCO as a "historic moment in European defense". Ireland, Portugal and Malta are still in the process of deciding whether to join. But, he said, "we must go further" in defense cooperation.

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European Union Foreign Ministers, who are meeting on Monday in Brussels, will hear EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini report on her recent lobbying trip to the us on the Iran nuclear deal. 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 real problem is not how much we spend, it is the fact that we spend in a fragmented manner".

The agreement envisions a Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, which is meant to give the European Union a more coherent role in tackling worldwide crises, follows the announcement of a $6.4-billion European Defense Fund last June.

The agreement also commits countries to "regularly increasing defense budgets in real terms" as well as devoting 20 percent of defense spending to procurement and two percent to research and technology.

Ms Mogherini said that by coordinating their efforts, European countries would get better value for money in defence. "We are leaving the European Union but not Europe, and regional security remains top of our agenda in the face of increased Russian assertiveness", said Lord Howe, the defence minister.

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