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The UK signed the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement at the end of 2020, but the agreement to secure an agreement on trade relations between the EU and Britain did not include structural cooperation on matters defense and security.
The latter, says defense expert Ester Sabatino, continues to be regulated primarily by NATO, of which the UK and most EU states are members.
The International Affairs Institute researcher, however, noted in an interview with Express.co.uk that Britain may be inclined to sign bilateral or mini-multilateral agreements with EU states in an independent capacity. renewed, rather than opting for a format that sees the Council of the EU signing an agreement with Britain as a bloc.
Ms Sabatino argued that while the outcome of multiple bilateral agreements on defense and security issues is to be welcomed, it would not put the EU as a whole in a particularly favorable light.
She explained: “NATO operations and missions will remain, but a framework for structural cooperation is needed between the EU and the UK.
“I’m not sure it’s a priority for the UK to find an agreement with the 27 EU member states.
“I rather think that the United Kingdom will prefer bilateral or multilateral frameworks, for example, the maintenance of the joint expeditionary force, or in fact, the free formats of bilateral relations with France and Germany.
“The UK is also currently negotiating a bilateral deal with Italy and there are rumors that this deal will be comprehensive on security and defense issues.
“So I think that cooperation in this area will probably be characterized by several bilateral or multilateral agreements.
“Of course, this is not really positive from a European point of view, in the sense that each Member State may have a different type of relationship with the UK.
“But it is better to have bilateral or multilateral cooperation than not to have a cognitive framework.”
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It comes as the EU’s Structured Military Cooperation (PSC) of 46 military projects aimed at improving EU-NATO cooperation was opened up by Brussels to third countries for the first time this month.
The bloc agreed to a set of political, legal and “substantive” conditions to allow non-EU countries to participate in joint defense projects.
Under the plan, the political conditions for third countries limit their participation to cases where they bring “substantial added value” to the military project and share “the values on which the EU is founded”.
Many European diplomats agreed that the set of political conditions effectively excluded Russia, China, but also Turkey, especially after the deterioration of relations between Brussels and Ankara in recent years.
But the Turkish government has now officially sent an application for membership.
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A Dutch spokesperson confirmed: “Turkey has indeed informed us of its willingness to participate in the military mobility project. As a project coordinator, we carefully follow the application process established by the Board. “
The request followed a warning Turkey issued to the EU in November about threats it would not be allowed to implement until the dispute with Cyprus and Greece was resolved.
Turkish officials then warned that “if the PSC starts off on the wrong foot and creates new dividing lines, it will neither succeed nor contribute to the transatlantic security architecture.”
EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano told EURACTIV that “the Netherlands, as project coordinator, have indicated that the application will be assessed by project members, in accordance with established procedures , as they did for previous requests ”.
This internal process is ongoing, ”added Stano.
Asked on the same question, the Dutch spokesperson said that “non-EU countries are free to apply to participate in PUC projects”.
“After such a request, all members of the project must unanimously decide whether this country meets the conditions,” added the spokesperson.
However, neither official commented on whether Turkey’s candidacy would meet the political conditions.
A total of 24 EU countries are currently participating in the PESCO alliance.