Cyprus Defence Minister says Cyprus' security enhanced with PESCO

Minister of Defence Jüri Luik and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini

There are strong indications that British officials are pushing hard for the United Kingdom to be included in the Permanent Structured Cooperation process, or PESCO, which is key to the Defence Union plans set out by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker recently.

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. The notice of intent to be inked in Brussels on Monday, seen by AFP, includes a pledge to "regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms" as well as commitments to devote 20 percent of defence spending on procurement and two percent on research and technology.

"So, today we will launch a new page for the European Defense", said Mogherini.

U.S. president's Donald Trump's frequent accusations that European Union countries do not pay enough into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has been one catalyst for them move forward with a unified plan for military cooperation.

Mogherini said the move would complement NATO's security aims.

"If there is a crisis in our neighborhood, we have to be able to act", she said.

Paris originally wanted a vanguard of European Union countries to bring money and assets to French-led military missions and projects, while Berlin has sought to be more inclusive, which could reduce effectiveness.

Their signatures are a sign of political will but the program will only enter force once it's been legally endorsed, probably in December.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini described it as a "historic moment in European defense", and added that "23 member states engaging booth on capabilities and on operational steps is something big". The PESCO drive however has revealed strains between Paris and Berlin, with the French pushing for a smaller group of nations committed to ambitious projects and Germany wanting a more inclusive arrangement with as numerous bloc's 27 members - minus Britain - as possible.

New projects will require unanimous approval of all countries signed up for PESCO, making it harder to get agreement on contentious issues.

All EU countries except Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Malta and Portugal said Monday they would sign up to the pact, which will be officially launched at a summit next month.

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

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