At least 20 countries in the European Union will sign up to a new defence pact next week, promoted by France and Germany, to fund and develop joint military hardware.
The Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, could be the biggest leap in EU defence policy in decades and may go some way to matching the bloc’s economic and trade prowess with a more powerful military.
So far France, Germany, Italy, Spain and around 16 other EU countries have pledged to join the pact, which could formally be launched when EU leaders meet in December. Some other members, including Denmark, Portugal, Malta and Ireland, have yet to commit themselves publicly.
Proposals for PESCO include work on a European medical command and a network of logistics hubs in Europe, the creation of a crisis response centre, and joint training of military officers.
A key goal is to reduce the numbers of weapons systems and prevent duplication to save money and improve joint operations.
It could also serve as an umbrella for projects such as a Franco-German initiative to design a new fighter jet, and existing bilateral military cooperation agreements, such as the close ties between Germany and the Netherlands.
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