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Lisbon Treaty and European defense
Diplomatic Battle behind Permanent Structured Cooperation

by Federico Santopinto, researcher at GRIP

4 November 2009


Permanent Structured Cooperation (PSC) is an enigma introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in the field of defence. Extremely technical and difficult to understand, it remained unperceived until now. The PSC is intended for “those Member States whose military capabilities fulfill higher criteria (…)”, which are willing to regroup on the basis, amongst other, of “approved objectives concerning the level of investment expenditure on defense equipment”.

If its contents still has to be entirely defined, the PSC nevertheless has three remarkable characteristics for an initiative related to defense. Firstly, it is singular: as its name indicates, the PSC will have to be unique and permanent. Secondly, it will be created through the qualified majority voting system. This same rule will be applied in case a participant is excluded (however it will usually work according to the unanimity principle). Thirdly, the treaty does not establish any minimum quota relating to the number of participating States. At first sight, these three characteristics seem to have been conceived with the aim of creating a mechanism encouraging Member States to increase their military expenditure, at least with regard to investments and research. Thus, the PSC would have the ambition to create a two‐speed Europe of defense.

Fearing to be marginalized, however, several countries criticized this option. This raised a debate on the level of “inclusivity” of the PSC and on its adhesion criteria. At present, confusion reigns around the PSC. The provisions which define it seem to be the fruit of a diplomatic battle whose compromise, settled in the treaties at the time of the Constitution, remains a mystery to anyone, including to the negotiators. So, the essential meaning of this project has still to be clarified.

Some conclusions can nevertheless be drawn at this stage. A too inclusive PSC would be likely to burden the already too complex CFSP/CSDP bureaucratic machinery, without bringing a real value‐added. On the contrary, a more exclusive project could offer a real value‐added to the EU, on condition that it goes beyond the sole capabilities debate: for example providing to the PSC an operational … and therefore political dimension. But in order to achieve that, some audacity would be required. And it would be also necessary to overcome certain dogmas dominating the CSDP debate.

Keywords: European Union, CFSP, CDSP, defense, military, foreign policy, European integration.
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Update: 05/11/2009

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