Today has been a truly historic day for the European Union: 23 European countries have signed on a “Permanent Structured Cooperation” in the field of defence. Technically it is called PESCO, in practice it is the foundation of a future European defence. Member States have agreed to work together to make European citizens more secure, to rationalise spending through joint investments in research and development for new assets, to set up joint initiatives to be more effective and efficient. Because only if we act together, can we tackle a more fragile than ever international environment.
When I received the formal notification letter, signed by 23 Ministers, it was an emotional moment. The doors of change had opened a year and a half ago already, when for the first time I proposed Member States to start building a Europe of defence, as originally envisaged sixty years ago by the founding father of the European Union. We bet on the European Union’s ability to leave the ghosts of the past behind, as we face a fast changing world. And today we made it. We have shown that the Union can serve Member States’ priorities – and I hope this path can be followed also in other fields.
We moved beyond old taboos, including the fear that a European defence could create competition between the EU and NATO: on the contrary, over the last years we have made our relationship with NATO even stronger. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is regularly invited to the meetings of EU Defence Ministers, and I always attend NATO Ministerials. A strong Europe can only make NATO stronger.
From now on, we will discuss the first projects that Member States will run together – fifty of them have already been put forward – so that we can start our cooperation in December. The journey has just begun.
Here is what I told journalists at the beginning of the day, and the final press conference – also with the other issues we discussed with Foreign Minister: this month’s summit between the African Union and the European Union, the delicate political situation in Lebanon and our work on strategic communications.