Brussels: The EU took a step towards closer defence ties Monday, with 23 states signing a landmark pact aiming to boost cooperation after Brexit and as Russia flexes its muscles to the east.
The permanent structured cooperation on defence agreement (PESCO) seeks to improve EU coordination on defence and weapons systems development.
It is part of efforts led by Germany and France to reboot the European Union after Britain's shock decision to quit and follows the announcement in June of a 5.5-billion euro ($6.4 billion) European Defence Fund.
The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini hailed the agreement as "a new page of European defence", saying countries had already proposed more than 50 projects.
Similar efforts to deepen military links have been frustrated for decades, partly by Britain's fierce opposition to anything that might lead to a European army.
But Brexit and Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 has once again brought the need for a strong European security stance back into focus.