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European Union strengthens cooperation on external security and defense

The 13th November 2017 marked a milestone of European integration with the launch of a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on defense by 23 EU member states. Through PESCO, the EU sets the framework and process to deepen defense cooperation and jointly develop defense capabilities, invest in shared projects and enhance the operational readiness and contribution of European armed forces. This will enable the EU to better meet new security challenges it is facing.

It is important to remember that back in the 1990s, the European Union laid the foundations for the creation of a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the beginnings of a common defence policy, as the second pillar of the Treaty of Maastricht. In 1999, European countries decided to reinforce their CFSP and launched the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). Four years later the European Security Strategy was adopted, with the vision to achieve a secure Europe in a better world.

EU’s vision to be an engaged global actor that contributes to global peace and stability has become even stronger in the 21st century. To face the upcoming and shifting global challenges, EU member states have made progress for the shaping of a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). This was especially the case after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 that foresaw the establishment of Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defence.

For the coming years, member states have acknowledged that enhanced coordination, increased investment in defence and cooperation in developing defence capabilities are key requirements to achieve a more efficient CSDP.

Together, Europeans have set out priority actions for stronger defence cooperation and took necessary steps further to increase the effectiveness, visibility and impact of Common Security and Defence Policy.

Enhancing our role as a global security partner

In one of my previous notes, I wrote about EU’s global strategy “Shared Vision, Common Action: A stronger Action” which set the principles for the Union’s global engagement and initiated a process of closer cooperation in security and defence. The agreement signed on November 13 shows that the EU has moved rapidly to implement the strategy.

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Through this framework, 23 EU member states will be able to work closer to jointly develop defense capabilities and make them available for EU military operations globally, while keeping the door open for other EU member states to join the Permanent Structured Cooperation. EU’s effectiveness in addressing security challenges will be increased and its performance as a reliable global security actor will be enhanced.

Today’s regional and global defense challenges have a strong inter-connected character and the efforts to maintain peace and security for our people must be collective to be more effective.

Both the EU and ASEAN member states are witnessing the need for common action in areas such as maritime security, counter-terrorism and critical infrastructure protection.

In 2017, both ASEAN and EU took concrete steps to promote security and stability in their regions and to build up response capabilities to address new transnational threats.

The recent launch of the trilateral air and naval patrols between the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia aiming at enhancing counter-terrorism capabilities highlights even more the determination of these three countries to work closer together.

On multiple occasions, the EU has reiterated its appreciation for ASEAN’s role in promoting regional security cooperation and stability in Southeast Asia and beyond. On the other hand, ASEAN has welcomed the EU interest in upgrading its engagement with the region through ASEAN-led processes.

There is more potential for developing EU-ASEAN cooperation to jointly address common security threats.

Our interest in the prosperity of Southeast Asian countries and their people is linked to EU’s quest for peace and stability in the world. We are a committed contributor to the security and development in Southeast Asia, because they constitute essential elements for security and development beyond our respective regions.

Last week’s milestone agreement in European defense cooperation is underpinned by the principle that European countries’ sovereignty can be exercised more efficiently when we are working together. At the same time, the European Union and its Member States remain strongly committed to the respect of the principle of national sovereignty.

These two principles, unity and sovereignty, continue to guide the European Union’s vision as a regional and global actor and help Europeans overcome internal challenges, moving forward closer and stronger. Reiterating the words of Ms. Federica Mogherini, the EU Higher Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, it is “thanks to a unity of vision and action, that we have shown to our partners that the EU will continue to be a reliable global power and a strong security provider.”

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(Franz Jessen is the EU Ambassador.)

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