France and Germany signed a pact on Monday (13 November) along with 21 other EU member states to integrate European defenses by funding, developing and deploying armed forces after Britain’s divorce from the bloc. European defense planning was first proposed in the 1950s and it was for long resisted by London. Now, in the context of Brexit and with the United States pushing for Europe to take more responsibility for its own security, the idea stands its best chance in years. Foreign and defense ministers signed the pact in Brussels, thus paving the way for EU leaders to sign it next month.
The 23 governments will for the first time bind themselves into cooperating on defense and military projects including rapid deployments. The pact includes all EU member states except Britain, who is leaving the block, Denmark, which has opted out of defense, Ireland, Portugal and Malta. Austria, traditionally neutral, has been added to the deal last minute. “Today we are taking a historic step,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel commented, stressing that “we are agreeing on the future cooperation on security and defense issues … it’s really a milestone in European development.”
Supporters of the military deal say that the pact will give the EU a more coherent and comprehensive role in addressing international crises and end the shortcomings seen in Libya when the EU had to rely on the United States in 2011 for air power and munitions. Washington backs the project as it looks to benefit from stronger militaries. The 23-member club will be financially covered by a 5-billion-euro defense fund for buying arms, a special fund to finance military operations and funding from the bloc’s common budget for defense research.