July 30, 2021

Europe in search of a “strategic autonomy” still contested and not very tangible

Europe is used to generating concepts, “Without defining what they mean and without having indicators measuring their effectiveness”. The analysis, a little cruel, signed Richard Youngs for the European Democracy Hub, does it apply to the discussions, largely initiated by Emmanuel Macron, on the necessary “Strategic autonomy” of the European Union (EU)?

The notion is now at the heart of the discussions of the Twenty-Seven and will be widely discussed in Brussels, Monday, June 14, at a NATO summit, as well as, the next day, at the meeting that is to bring together the American president, Joe Biden, and the leaders of the European institutions. A “reunion” experienced as a relief after the Donald Trump episode which shook both the Atlantic Alliance and the EU now in search of less dependence. Towards China, with regard to industry, commerce or rare metals, Russia in terms of energy, but also the United States, for technology, security and defense.

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“France is now supported by Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, but it is one of the rare countries to disconnect this theme from the report in Washington, underlines Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, director of the Paris office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Others, like Germany or Poland, fear, on the other hand, that the question of autonomy complicates the relationship with the American ally. “ This specialist in transatlantic issues evokes a “Distorting prism” which therefore blurs the understanding of the project and its possible realization.

Political powerlessness

The summit planned for Tuesday with the United States will perhaps make it possible to see whether the Europeans now have a common definition of this autonomy to be conquered. And also to measure their determination to set this concept, which remains theoretical, to music.

On June 10, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke of the need for a “Sovereignty” – a notion that appeals to Berlin a little more. But, in the process, he spoke of a Europe “Which needs to build the framework of its strategic autonomy, in economic, industrial, technological matters, of military value”.

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Paradoxically, it was Donald Trump who was the trigger for the reflection of Europeans on their vulnerabilities, especially in the field of security. Conflicts with the EU and recurring pressure from the Republican administration for a “Burden sharing” fairer membership within NATO led to a revival of European defense and an increase in military spending on the part of many allies.

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