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EU’s new defence and security initiatives

The European Union has increased the effectiveness of its security and defence cooperation in recent years. In the field of defence, the cooperation is centred on the so-called new defence initiatives, which include:

  • Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO)
  • Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD)
  • European Defence Fund (EDF)
  • Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC)

One of the objectives of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU is the efficient implementation of existing goals. Finland will also continue the strategic debate on security and defence in the EU.

Permanent Structured Cooperation

The Council of the European Union adopted a decision establishing the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in December 2017. All EU member states are taking part in PESCO, except for three countries (Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom).

The aim is to promote the EU’s goals, help member states to improve their defence capabilities and deepen defence cooperation among member states. PESCO has a two-layer structure:

  1. The participating member states have undertaken binding commitments, subject to annual regular assessment. The commitments are in the areas of defence investment, defence system harmonising, deployability of forces, capability shortfalls and European equipment programmes.
  2. The binding commitments are implemented through PESCO projects, where member states participate within their means and capabilities. Finland has a participating status in four projects and an observer status in six projects.

PESCO is divided into strategic phases, the two first phases being 2018–2020 and 2021–2025. The Council specifies at the beginning of each phase the more precise objectives for meeting the binding commitments. Participating member states have to communicate every year a national implementation plan, outlining how they intend to meet the binding commitments and what they plan to do in the future.

Coordinated Annual Review on Defence

The Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) was launched as a two-year trial run in May 2017. A CARD analysis will give an overview of military defence capabilities in Europe, report on the progress of defence cooperation and identify future cooperative opportunities. It will also identify trends in member states’ defence spending plans and report on the implementation of the EU capability development priorities.

The first CARD report was completed in autumn 2018, and the first full CARD cycle is set to start in 2019. Member states decide independently what data to share for the report and how to implement its outcomes and recommendations.

European Defence Fund

The European Commission is proposing a European Defence Fund as part the next multiannual financial framework (MFF) 2021–2027. The Council agreed on a partial general approach on the Commission’s proposal in November 2018, but some matters, including funding, will depend on the overall agreement on the MFF. This is the first time the EU is reserving a budget envelope for European defence cooperation.

The European Defence Fund would foster innovation, research and development in the European defence technology and equipment sector. It would reinforce synergies and cost-effectiveness in the defence industry.

The Fund’s aim is to foster the global competitiveness, efficiency and innovation capacity of the European defence technological and industrial base and strengthen an open single market for defence in the EU. Another aim is to encourage cross-border cooperation between operators across the EU, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises.

Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC)

The EU reinforced its crisis management structures in both strategic and tactical terms by establishing the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) in 2017. The MPCC is responsible for the operational planning and conduct of the EU’s military training missions

The plan is that by the end of 2020, the MPCC can take responsibility for the operational planning and conduct of one, small-scale executive military operation. Lieutenant General Esa Pulkkinen from Finland is the current Director of the MPCC and Director General of the EU Military Staff.

EU Global Strategy as a basis

The EU’s new security and defence initiatives are based on guidelines from the European Council, on the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy from July 2016 and subsequent Council conclusions and on the European Defence Action Plan presented by the Commission.

Council of the European Union: EU cooperation on security and defence

European External Action Service: EU Global Strategy


Outi Hyvärinen, Counsellor, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 295 3500 035, outi.hyvarinen(at)
Tuomas Koskenniemi, Special Adviser, Ministry of Defence, tel. +358 295 140 058, tuomas.koskenniemi(at)