Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), launched by the EU in December 2017, has grown quickly. Yet, its role in developing European defence capacity may turn out to be marginal if a compromise is not found on the issue of the participation of non-EU states in PESCO projects and on the size of the European Defence Fund (EDF). PESCO’s importance may be diminished by advances by big, European defence initiatives led outside the EU’s legal framework.
A few weeks ago, the Danish government announced it would submit to its parliament a request for the deployment of two medium lift helicopters AW101 and about 70 military personnel to the Sahel region as part of the French-led counter-terrorism operation “Barkhane.” Once the deployment is approved by lawmakers, as appears likely, Danish assets would join the operation in late 2019.
This announcement has received little attention, but it is significant — both for the fight against jihadist groups in the Sahel region and for the future of European defense cooperation. It provides an insight into a new approach to the project of building European defense, one that does not necessarily rely on the structures or complex institutional settings of the European Union, but instead focuses on pragmatic and operational cooperation between states.
This graphic shows the changes in defense budgets of various European countries from 2016 to 2017. For more on the challenges facing European defense and armament planners, see Michael Haas and Annabelle Vuille’s recent addition to the CSS Analyses in Security Policy series here. For more CSS charts, maps and graphics on defense policy, click here.