At the end of May, the Council of the European Union adopted 11 new projects and welcomed Denmark as a new member state of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) initiative (European Council, 2023). These events are milestones for two reasons; first, these new operations have a focus on interoperability; and second, Denmark’s accession itself, as in the past the country was reluctant to join PESCO and European defence efforts. The 11 new projects focus on a range of military domains. These include training, land, maritime, air systems and cyber. More specifically, the projects concerning land interoperability will primarily focus on unmanned ground systems, communication and infrastructure networks (PESCO, 2023).
In recent years hybrid and cyber warfare have become the main focus in the defence sector. New technologies mean new threats, adapting defence capabilities to innovation is critical to maintain high-efficiency levels. During the NATO Madrid summit, which took place on 29th-30th, the issue of cybersecurity and disinformation was on the agenda, and necessary steps were included in the final declaration and in the new Strategic Concept. NATO announced a new defence and deterrence posture across the cyber domain to fight against new threats and challenges and stressed the necessity to increase resilience. However, the last events that occurred in our continent seem to be highlighting an unavoidable fact: conventional forces still play a fundamental role.
On the 23rd and 24th of June, EU leaders gathered at the European Council to discuss, among others, newly formulated membership requests from Ukraine, Moldavia and Georgia. While still considered as third countries, states that fill up a membership request or obtain candidate status (as well as non-candidate third States) cannot - and should - not be entirely ousted or dismissed of hand from various EU legal frameworks and tools related to common security and defence policy (CSDP).
The EU Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) - as part of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) - went one step further, from cooperation to integration in defence, adopting the fourth wave of new security projects. On 16 November, the Council endorsed 14 new PESCO projects to further deepen defence cooperation between member states in five core areas: land, maritime, air, cyber, and space, which will enable joint training facilities and services.
The geopolitical context of the European Union (EU) has changed significantly in recent years, leading Member States to face new threats. Confronted with this situation, European leaders have agreed to work more closely together in defence and security. EU Member States are not cooperating appropriately, which has led to inefficient use of funds, wasteful duplication, and inadequate deployability of defence troops. The military industry is characterised by rising defence equipment costs as well as expensive Research and Development (R&D) costs, which limit the launch of new military programmes and have a direct impact on the EU Defence Technological and Industrial Base’s (EDTIB) competitiveness and innovation (EU Parliament and Council, 2021). The level of defence spending varies significantly amongst Member States. Increased solidarity is required to deliver joint defence capabilities, particularly through the engagement of the EU budget. The cost of non-cooperation between Member States in the field of defence and security is estimated at between €25 billion and €100 billion every year (Maelcamp, I.; Ungaro, A.R.).