22 Nov 2018

The EU’s modular approach to defence integration

An inclusive, ambitious and legally binding PESCO?

Steven Blockmans

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In response to the need expressed by European leaders to protect their citizens better against security threats emanating from within and outside the EU’s borders, a package of defensive measures has been developed with remarkable speed. Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in the area of defence is the most emblematic innovation in this regard. This unique form of enhanced cooperation was triggered under Article 46 TEU.

Yet the political rhetoric surrounding its launch has raised expectations that the EU may not be able to meet. This is mainly due to misperceptions about the legal nature and enforceability of the so-called “binding” commitments agreed to. PESCO will need to overcome at least three key challenges:

  • raising the level of ambition while ensuring inclusivity;
  • maintaining credibility in case participating States do not comply with their commitments;
  • and ensuring coherence with the many other building blocks in Europe’s defence architecture.

Arguably, legal commitments are the hardest in the area of industrial integration. With moves to incentivize capability development and create a single market for defence, the Community method will be applied to a field hitherto jealously shielded off by the Member States. This dimension of the incipient European Defence Union represents a game-changer in the integration process.

Reprinted from “Common Market Law Review”, Vol. 55, No. 6, 6 December 2018, pp. 1785-1826, with permission of Kluwer Law International. Permission to use this content must be obtained from the copyright owner. More information can be found at: lrus.wolterskluwer.com/policies/permissions-reprints-and-licensing