Europe's Strategic Compass: Merits and Shortcomings - Riccardo Perissich - Istituto Affari Internazionali

Europe’s “Strategic Compass” proposes a number of initiatives to enable the EU to act in the security and defence domain and confront the many challenges impacting European interests. The document, prepared by the European External Action Service (EEAS) under the responsibility of Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative and Vice President of the Commission, will be debated by defence and foreign ministers over the next few months and subsequently adopted as an official strategy statement sometime during the French Presidency of the European Council next year.

Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has further expanded its foreign commitments. The treaty set the foundations for the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Further procedures and bodies have subsequently been established: among them the EEAS, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission, the European Military Committee and the European Defence Fund (EDF) financed by the EU budget. Several projects (a total of 60) have also been launched under various forms of variable geometry under the heading of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

On top of this, a number of bilateral agreements between member states in the defence field also need to be considered. While not insignificant, results have remained modest. One reason is that the multiplication of initiatives and procedures that aim to re-launch European defence integration and develop a common EU strategic culture makes it hard to streamline the process. More importantly, for all the rhetoric, political will has been lacking: words and concepts seem to have different meanings for different people. The concept of European “strategic autonomy” is a good example.

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