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The semi-failure of permanent structured cooperation is looming (v2)

(B2) Two and a half years later, the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) is struggling to show results. And this is not the fault of the coronavirus crisis

(credit: DICOD/EMA)

A scathing report

The report concocted within the military services of the EU, which B2 was able to read and dissect, in preview, is very technical and stuffed with various acronyms and jargons (1). This mid-term review nevertheless reveals a fundamental fact, sometimes in a crude way. It is therefore understandable that it has not yet been published by the European authorities. And that they are reluctant to do so, for fear of questioning the Member States too violently, thus accused of indigence and lack of will.

Commitments not kept

First of all, States struggle to meet commitments which they had nevertheless taken solemnly. The failure hangs over the most innovative cooperation instrument of the Lisbon Treaty launched, in a ceremonial way at the end of 2017. Some do not even bother to detail the way in which they apply these commitments. Others (eleven according to our information) are content to copy what they put on NATO's side. In fact, when they are told European Union, the majority of member states openly think of NATO. This is the opposite of the effect sought by PESCO.

States with little studiousness

« Most of the information provided " in the various chapters of commitment are only " not substantially fulfilled says the report. Each state seems to consider In a different way » which is strategic in commitments. In some areas, the way to execute commitments is " partially filled or not at all ».

Projects that struggle to move forward

As for the 47 projects (2) initiated within the framework of PESCO, let us be clear. It's the debacle! Only a third of PESCO projects could succeed. The others are still at the bottle stage, or even stillborn. To be more polite, we speak of “ideation”: the generation of ideas. Thirty projects are thus in this preparatory phase of ideation. And there seems to be little hope of seeing them happen anytime soon. " Although an IOC [Initial Operational Capability] date is given for most of them, a clear estimate of required resources is missing. says the report viewed by B2.

Projects that are the thermometer of PESCO

Of course, you can be told that these projects are not the most important part of this process, which is above all political. But that's the tip of the iceberg. What appears most concrete to everyone (public opinion, parliaments, industrialists and even European institutions). It is moreover with this objective that they were integrated, from the outset, into the permanent structured cooperation: to enable the progress of integration to be illustrated.

Projects that take time to see the light of day

This slowness can be explained for industrial projects which are spread over ten years. It is difficult to explain for cooperation projects where a certain political will is enough. Especially since several of these projects were not started on the day PESCO started, but well before (within the framework of NATO for example, at the national or binational level). The reflection should therefore already be well advanced.

Useful projects not operational

Why so the European Medical Command (the PESCO project n°1), the logistics hub (two projects led by Germany), the military development system in the event of a disaster (project led by Italy) are they not really operational yet? Such devices would have been extremely useful during the coronavirus crisis. As well as the cyber reaction team (Lithuanian project).

Duplicates and lack of strategic relevance

Why are there two or three similar cyber or training projects? Does developing an intelligence school (Greek-Cypriot project), new frigates (Italian project), artillery fire support (Slovak project) or a new armored vehicle (Italian project) really respond to priority European shortcomings and cannot be taken under other skies?


Tackle the problems

The Ministers of Defense of the 27 will have to tackle these questions head-on. They will have to put aside this widespread idea of ​​making only a few minor changes to a device that is so difficult to develop. The number of projects will have to be reduced drastically. A real political will will have to stimulate them.

Have precise and transparent advancement criteria

To enable commitments to be kept, it will be necessary to establish measurable, realistic, time-phased and precise criteria. It will be necessary to take public opinion and parliaments to witness, by making implementation reports public, individualized State by State. As in economics. This is the only way to verify that progress is being made.

Clean up projects

We can (we must) really ask ourselves the question: Is carrying out 46 PESCO projects at the same time realistic, according to European ambitions and means? Shouldn't we focus on a dozen 'useful', 'priority' projects and drop the others, which are certainly very interesting? Can these not be carried out on a 'bilateral' or 'multilateral' basis rather than resorting to the European level (3).

The risk of the 'Sleeping Beauty' falling asleep

Failing this, the beautiful building risks being buried in the cemetery of beautiful European ideas that have never really been realized and which dawdle from one year to the next, impressing public opinion with a disastrous idea: a big bureaucratic machine without really 'efficiency.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. This report should have been presented to the Ministers of Defense on May 12, but the session was entirely devoted to Covid-19. It will be the subject of the ministerial meeting on 16 June.
  2. 46 projects currently to be exact. They were 47 at the start. But one of them has already filed for bankruptcy according to our information.
  3. The 10% bonus promised under the European Defense Fund is certainly not unrelated to this enthusiasm of the Member States to present so many projects.

Also read our file No. 58. The slow establishment of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) (V3)

Article supplemented (with several quotes from the report), reorganized and updated on June 15 in preparation for the Council of Defense Ministers on June 16

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).