European Union member states sign declaration of intent for increasing defense cooperation

Mogherini reports to EU Foreign Ministers on her lobbying trip to Washington to keep the Iran nuclear deal

Led by France and Germany, the pact pledges 23 European Union member-states to a Common Defence Fund which will see them develop and deploy armed forces together, Reuters reports.

Similar efforts to deepen military links have been frustrated for decades, partly by Britain's fierce opposition to anything that might lead to a European army.

BRUSSELS (AP) - European Union countries on Monday officially launched a new era in defense cooperation with a program of joint military investment and project development aimed at helping the EU confront its security challenges.

Europe vowed to turn a new page on security cooperation on Monday as 23 states came together to sign a mutual defence pact created to transform military operations. By the time of the summit, diplomats expect only Britain, Denmark and Malta not to be involved. Germany wanted the pact to include as many countries as possible while France wanted it to be as militarily ambitious as possible, they said.

In all just five member nations failed to sign up to the process, known as permanent structured cooperation, or PESCO.

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With the notification signed, a final decision to launch the defense cooperation framework is expected in December.

Defence experts said the success of the new project would only be clear when Paris and Berlin resolved their competing visions for European-wide military cooperation.

EU diplomats told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that Britain's decision previous year to quit the bloc and U.S. President Donald Trump's push for European allies to raise their contributions to the defense of the continent have prompted EU members to act.

Participants have signed up to a list of commitments which "include increasing the share of expenditure allocated to defense research and technology with a view to nearing the 2 percent of total defense spending" and to "regularly increasing defense budgets in real terms". Member states participating in PESCO retain the sovereign right to command their own national defense, and the capabilities developed within PESCO will belong to the member states, who will be able to use them as they wish, regardless of the format, including in fulfilling their own national needs and those of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

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