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PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) on the podium (V2)

The atrium of the "Europa" building, where the European Council meeting will take place, in full preparation for the "PESCO" ceremony. At the bottom a series of photos illustrating the different missions, operations (credit: Council of the EU (image) / B2 (photo))

(B2 - exclusive) With the publication in the Official Journal this morning (1), the Permanent Structured Cooperation (CSP or PESCO), a sort of Defense Eurogroup, is now legally established, with retroactive effect from 11 December, the day of the adoption of the act (text in all languages ​​here).

A launch with great fanfare

The official launch will take place, in fact, with great fanfare, this Thursday at the end of the afternoon around 17 or 18 p.m., in the atrium of the Europa building. A group photo of the Heads of State and Government of the 25 countries participating in the Permanent Structured Cooperation is planned. The leaders will be surrounded not only by representatives of the European institutions (JC Juncker, F. Mogherini, D. Tusk) but also, and above all, by officers of all arms (land, air, sea). A first...

A diverse representation

The '25' were therefore asked to find very different profiles and not just chiefs of staff. " We have tried to represent the whole range of intervention, to illustrate the diversity of the European projects inserted in this new Cooperation explained to me, this morning, an expert on the file. Officers of all arms (army, air force, navy, intelligence, capabilities, cyber) should be present, with attention " so as not to have only men” on the picture...

A general

The French have thus chosen a woman to represent them, Brigadier General Christine Chaulieu, which is number 2 of the French military representation (for the EU) in Brussels. A whole symbol (2). The general is the first promoted to this rank in years, "26 years" counted my friends from FOB. Until recently, she was head of the international activities office at the Institut des Hautes Etudes de Défense Nationale (IHEDN). She was posted as a defense attaché in Denmark in 2005, "at the great surprise of the Danish authorities, moreover, » she says (3), and in Austria in 2013 (with a radius of action in three neighboring countries: Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia). She also worked at the military intelligence directorate (DRM), in 1993 as a captain, then at the French Verification Unit in Creil as an arms control inspection team. His first post was in Germany, with the 20th train regiment in Baden-Baden.

An Estonian and a Pole on the podium

Two small speeches (declarations) are planned this afternoon to symbolize this moment: that of the President of the European Council, the Pole Donald Tusk, who was one of the great architects of this return of defense and security to the fore (4) and that of the Estonian Chief of Staff, General Riho Terrace. Estonia currently holds the presidency of the Union. Quite a symbol also that the career of this general, who did his service in the Soviet Navy (USSR), before switching to the army (infantry company) of his country which had just regained its independence ( 5).

A vital symbolism

This is the first time (to my knowledge) that such a ceremony, mixing at the highest level, political and military, has been organized within the European Council (and even within a European forum). One could easily make fun of such a ceremony... It would be a serious mistake, in my opinion. Symbols are part of politics, they are politics...

It's a significant symbolic step concrete progress on the question of security and defence, but also the political will, displayed, to move forward even further. Admittedly, these are the main principles that are laid down today. We will have to wait for the actions. But this subject provided for by the Treaty of Lisbon signed just ten years ago is finally finding its first concrete form (6). It is written in stone today. It will be difficult to back down afterwards.

This is a political display, important, in the eyes of European public opinion. It is not just the crises, the divorces or the "battles" (on migration or Greece, on glyphosate or the European budget) that make the salt of Europe. Yes ! the Union is capable of moving forward, even on difficult subjects, (almost) all together. And the departure of the United Kingdom does not represent a weakening of Europe. On the contrary. It promotes additional integration. Thank you David (Cameron) and Theresa (May)!

It is also a geopolitical message in the eyes of the world, of Russia for example or of neighboring countries. The message is intended specifically for the United States. Yes, Europe is capable of taking itself in hand, of assuming itself as a complete political entity, that is to say integrating (also) the "military thing", alongside other civil actions. Thank you Vladimir (Putin) and Donald (Trump)!

It is some kind of public engagement, which it will be difficult to deny afterwards, except to back down or make an admission of failure or powerlessness. In itself, for all those who defend a more active European defense policy – ​​from the French to the Estonians via the Germans, the Italians or the Finns – this is a small victory.

Now, we have to move on to the work (of ant) ​​to implement everything, to obtain concrete, operational, visible results, to ensure that these advances are well understood by the general public (and not only by the European 'bubble') and do not get bogged down in procedural disputes. It will be necessary to speak "frankly", not to gargle words, to watch over the democratic "vacuum" which marks this cooperation (7). Be careful not to disappoint...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

All our articles on Permanent Structured Cooperation are here in our new section PESCO

Read in particular:

And on B2 pro:

(1) To be consulted here, all EU languages available (including Danish, Maltese and English, the three countries that do not participate in PESCO).

(2) Luxembourg will thus be represented by a woman, Lieutenant-Colonel Nadine Thinnes, deputy military representative of Luxembourg to the EU, as well as Germany, Estonia, Greece and the Netherlands.

(3) " During the first fifteen years of my career, the presence of a female officer was not felt to be normal or usual, for some it could only result from exceptional procedures “ she said in a press briefing from the Ministry of Defense last April (listen to her video testimony on the presence of women in the army). " During my schooling at the CID (the war school) a classmate asked me "how I had done" (...) the idea that I had been able to pass competitions like him had not touched. Feelings ranged from indifference to sympathy, sometimes tinged with compassion, to curiosity and testing. Since then, the situation has changed a lot”.

(4) with Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini who were concretely at the maneuver and the initiative. Donald Tusk insisted a lot on the "inclusive" aspect of this Cooperation and hanging up, in particular on the European "wagon" Poland, largely reluctant (and this is an understatement!) at the start.

(5) The organic of General Terras sums up in itself the entire course of this small Baltic country, the most easterly of Europe. He perfected his knowledge in Germany (school of the Bundeswehr), in the United Kingdom (Royal College of Defense Studies), Sweden (company commander) and Switzerland (Geneva Center of Security Policy and battalion commander). And he received several honorary decorations, notably from the main countries at the initiative of PESCO (the French Legion of Honor, the German Order of Merit and the Cross of Honor of the Bundeswehr, the Order of the Finnish Lion... ).

(6) Article 42, § 6, of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) provides that “ the Member States which meet higher military capability criteria and which have entered into more binding commitments in this area with a view to the most demanding missions, establish permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) within the framework of the Union ».

(7) Read: European defense in democratic skid. Beware of the lack of transparency!

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).