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Permanent Structured Cooperation: not a panacea but an important step for consolidating EU security and defence cooperation - Dr. Kyriakos Revelas, Brussels*

Policy Paper N°67

"On 11 December 2017 the Council of the EU established the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty. This decision is the latest in a series of moves in the last few years in the realm of security and defence policy. It has been welcomed as the confirmation that this time European integration - in a policy field which is considered as the bastion of national sovereignty - is going to make real progress, thus rendering the EU capable of looking after its own security. Critics were quick to point out that this latest development is a missed opportunity and that solemn announcements and good intentions will, once again, produce little tangible effects for the security of the EU and its citizens. Yet, both supporters and critics recognise that in the last three years the security environment has significantly deteriorated - domestically, regionally and globally - and that pressure for political action has never been as strong.  

Repeated terrorist attacks on European soil, destabilisation in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, the surge of ISIS/Daesh in Iraq and Syria, continuous instability in Libya and the Sahel zone, renewed tensions in the Middle East concerning the Palestinian question, the war in Yemen and underlying regional rivalries, hightened tension in East Asia with repeated threats and provocations by the regime in North Korea, and increased uncertainty about the US foreign policy of the Trump Administration, suffice to sketch this deterioration in the security context the EU is facing. Most analysts would also agree that European defence capabilities have declined as a consequence of defence spending reductions in the post-Cold War period, reductions compounded by the economic crisis and subsequent austerity policies. This trend of defence spending cuts seems to have come to a halt in 2016-17.  At the same time, awareness has been rising that, by spending better, Europe can recover, expand and upgrade its defence capabilities to serve its security interests. (Munich Security Conference 2017) Only together can member states have the confidence of being able to tackle the intensified security challenges effectively (given their transnational nature and uncertainty in the transatlantic security partnership) and efficiently (at affordable budgetary cost)."

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*The views expressed in this paper are strictly personal and do not reflect those of any institution with which the author is affiliated. 

Kyriakos Revelas Brussels CIFE Policy Paper