A post-Brexit U.K. and the United States could take part in projects under the EU’s new military pact while leaving China — and possibly Turkey — on the outside, according to a new draft proposal.
The draft, seen by POLITICO, was put forward by the Finnish presidency of the Council of the EU and is on the provisional agenda of a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday.
The document appears intended to respond to EU members with close military ties to the U.K. and U.S., who want to see those countries involved in projects, while also addressing concerns from other members anxious to exclude others including China and Turkey.
The five-page document proposes that a non-member of the EU’s military pact, known as Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), could be invited to take part in a project on condition that “it shares the values on which the EU is founded” — referring to an article in the Treaty on European Union that spells out values such as the respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
In May, Washington wrote to the EU expressing concerns that PESCO risks shutting American companies out of defense contracts and undermining NATO. The latter argument has always been rejected by PESCO’s leading advocates, such as France and Germany, who contend that the pact is complementary to NATO rather than a rival.
PESCO is a key part of the EU’s ambitions to deepen defense cooperation between national governments.
According to a diplomat taking part in the discussions, it’s unclear whether the language in the draft would be enough to stop Turkey from taking part — a key concern of EU member Cyprus, in particular — but it should be sufficient to keep out China.
The draft spells out many other conditions for a so-called third state to take part in a PESCO project, including that “its participation must not lead to dependencies on that third state.”
To take part, the third state would have to submit a request to a country in charge of one of the 34 PESCO projects launched so far. The country would also need to secure unanimity from all the governments involved in the project.
The document also sets out conditions that would allow the participation of the third country to be “reassessed.” If one or more EU members consider that the country no longer meets the conditions for participation, they can refer the issue to the Council. The third country “may also be heard” and the member states concerned along with the EU’s high representative for foreign and security policy will “seek adequate solutions within a period of two months,” the draft says.
PESCO is a key part of the EU’s ambitions to deepen defense cooperation between national governments and make the bloc more able to take part in military missions, whether on its own or under a U.N. or NATO mandate.
The European Commission has proposed a €13 billion European Defence Fund, in part to fund PESCO projects. But so far the difficult question of whether and how much to involve allies outside the bloc has remained unresolved.
In May 2018, a group of countries led by the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg presented a document pushing for PESCO to be opened up to outsiders. But others, like France, were concerned that opening the door to U.S and U.K. companies would deny EU27 industries lucrative defense work, diplomats said. Austria and Greece were also concerned that the EU would have to offer Turkey the same arrangement.
In September last year, a five-page working paper, prepared by the EU’s External Action Service and sent to the Politico-Military Group (PMG), a committee of Council officials representing national capitals, proposed a compromise that the EU’s joint military pact will be open to countries outside the bloc but only on a case-by-case basis.
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