Current debates about European strategic autonomy have tended to focus on narrow conceptions of autonomy, where the concept is solely understood in military and defence terms. Envisioned in such a way, strategic autonomy equates to a ‘fuite en avant’ which fails to resolve existing shortcomings in EU external action.
This brief argues that it is in the areas of conflict prevention, mediation, post-conflict peacebuilding and resilience-building where the real EU’s strengths lie and that any vision of strategic autonomy should take this as the starting point. Otherwise, this debate only risks increasing the existing gap between the Union’s ambition as an international security actor and its practice.
The policy brief identifies four distinctive areas where the EU’s added value lies, namely, in relation to its integrated approach; the emphasis on multilateralism; its relative adaptability and flexibility; and a normative approach which has privileged non-coercive means and increasingly bottom-up approaches to conflict prevention and resolution.
The purpose of this brief is to identify the strengths of the EU in these areas, but also shortcomings so that current debates about strategic autonomy can be geared to addressing these problems. Specifically, the brief argues that the EU and its member states should focus on strengthening the EU’s engagement in key areas, improving co-ordination within the EU but also with other actors, and ensuring buy-in from member states by promoting inclusivity, but also differentiation within this policy area. Placing the need to strengthen the Union’s peacebuilding capabilities at the centre of the debate could thus help shift the existing narrative towards one that is more sensitive to the comparative advantages of the EU as an international security provider.
Read the Policy Brief
This Policy Brief is the third of a Strategic Autonomy Series, you can find out more about this issue on the project webpage.