Ireland joined Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in December 2017 following Government and Dáil approval. The establishment of PESCO represents a further development in EU Cooperation in support of international peace and security under CSDP. Under PESCO, Member States will come together in different groups to develop and make available additional capabilities and enablers for peacekeeping and crisis management operations.
Within the EU, it is accepted that defence and security is a national competence and that any decisions, including any deepening of EU cooperation, require unanimity. Ireland continues to have a strong and equal voice on defence issues within the EU institutions.
As part of PESCO, participating Member States have agreed to fulfil commitments which include; regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms, increased cooperation on cyber defence, and participating in at least one project under PESCO, among others. Member States also agree to produce a rolling National Implementation Plan to assist in the assessment of Member States' fulfilment of the PESCO commitments both collectively and on an individual basis.
I am pleased that progress under PESCO has been positive although progress on projects has been somewhat slower than expected. The commitments made under PESCO, and which are assessed in the National Implementation Plan, support the overall development of Defence Forces capabilities in support of peacekeeping and crisis management operations through cooperation and participation in joint projects, with like-minded partners. The projects in which we are involved, Maritime Surveillance and EU Training Mission Competence centre are directly relevant to current and recent crisis management operations under UN mandates (Operation Sophia and EUTM Mali).
As Dáil Éireann has already voted on Ireland's participation in PESCO which included fulfilling the commitments as outlined in the National Implementation Plan, a further vote in Dáil Éireann is not required. Ireland’s 2019 National Implementation Plan was finalised in January. It is anticipated that work on the next iteration of Ireland's National Implementation Plan will begin in Q3 later this year.