Published:  12:09 AM, 14 November 2017

EU states to sign landmark joint defense pact

More than 20 EU states are set to sign up for a landmark joint defense pact on Monday as Europe seeks closer military ties in the wake of Brexit and as Russia flexes its muscles to the east. The permanent structured cooperation on defense - or Pesco - aims to deepen defense cooperation between European Union members and improve coordination in the development of new military technology.

The agreement is part of efforts led by Germany and France to push closer defense ties as a way of rebooting the bloc after Britain's shock vote to leave and follows the announcement in June of a European Defense Fund that will receive 5.5 billion euros (S$8.7 billion) annually.

The notice of intent to be inked in Brussels on Monday, seen by AFP, includes a pledge to "regularly increasing defense budgets in real terms" as well as commitments to devote 20 per cent of def-ence spending on procurement and two per cent on research and technology.

"We've never come close to this before," an EU official said. "We have more than 20 member states signing up to structured cooperation. Not just signing paper - undertaking commitments in terms of spending on defense and joint projects."

Since the failure of the European Defense Community more than 60 years ago, there have been numerous attempts to achieve closer military union, but they have foundered as member states have proven reluctant to hand over responsibility for military matters.

Pesco includes a pledge that countries will provide "substantial support... with personnel, material, training, exercise support, infrastructure" for EU military missions, the document said.

Countries not signing up on Monday will be able to join Pesco later, and the deal also includes provisions for non-EU members, which would include Britain, to take part in specific projects.

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.

-Reuters, Brussels

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