All but five European Union countries signed up for a new defense cooperation pact Monday despite warnings that it undermines NATO.
France and Germany introduced the initiative in 2016 to advance European integration after Brexit. Known as permanent structured cooperation, or PESCO, the program focuses on joint military investment and project development.
“It’s going to be quite a historic day for European defense,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters before the meeting.
Participants signed a list of commitments that “include increasing the share of expenditure allocated to defense research and technology.” They also vow to near NATO’s target to spend 2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product on defense by “regularly increasing defense budgets.” The EU has already set up a joint defense headquarters in Brussels for training missions in Africa.
The United Kingdom has been critical of an EU defense project and has even threatened to veto any steps toward an EU military force. The country is one of five countries that didn’t sign the new pact.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has long called for an EU army to deter Russia.
“You would not create a European army to use it immediately,” Juncker said in 2015. “But a common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union.”
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