WASHINGTON — A marquee cooperation project between the European Union and the Pentagon aimed at cutting red tape during cross-border deployments of military gear in Europe has yet to get off the ground, as negotiations continue about the ground rules for non-EU participants.

At issue is a so-called “administrative arrangement” between members of the EU’s various PESCO projects — the bloc’s collective effort to strengthen defense cooperation — and outside countries. In the case of the military mobility effort, the Dutch government, as project lead, is tasked with brokering terms between two dozen EU member countries and three non-members: the United States, Canada and Norway.

“The Netherlands is leading the efforts to establish formal documentation, including an administrative arrangement for the Military Mobility PESCO project for the three joining nations and the existing project members,” U.S. Defense Department spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell told Defense News. “We hope to conclude this AA this fall and participate in future project meetings.”

The aim of the project is to bring the United States to the table when it comes to streamlining the procedures for shipping tanks from, say, Rome to Riga during crises. While such planning has long happened under NATO auspices, adding the EU bureaucracy into the equation would overcome additional obstacles, the thinking goes.

European defense officials have said they consider the capability of quickly moving large numbers of troops and equipment to would-be hotspots a key element in the continent’s overall deterrence calculus.

Reports first surfaced in early spring that Pentagon officials were pushing to partake in the EU’s military mobility scheme, though a formal invitation didn’t come until May.

Senior bloc officials have expressed support for the new transatlantic tie-up, saying it would also pave the way for increased EU-NATO cooperation. But the task of negotiating an administrative arrangement is forcing Europeans to think through the details of letting an outside player into a cooperation scheme that was designed primarily for internal use.

There are also questions about intellectual property rights and liability, for example. In addition, some states have previously indicated discomfort with the idea of allowing a degree of U.S. involvement that could result in American defense industry heavyweights playing a dominant role later on.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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