[New publication] Addressing the legal questions surrounding the EU’s strategic autonomyPublished 11 December 2023
Asser Institute researcher Eva Kassoti and Ramses A. Wessel have brought together a comprehensive legal analysis of the notion of strategic autonomy as editors for a new special issue for the European Foreign Affairs Review. The special issue focuses on general considerations as well as specific policy areas like EU defence-industrial spending, sanctions, and data autonomy.
‘Strategic autonomy’ has become more prominent in the debate surrounding the European Union's (EU) global role. It was first mentioned in a 2013 European Council call for the development of European defence capabilities. As the term found its way into key EU policy documents, including the 2016 EU Global Strategy and the establishment of the European Defence Fund in 2017, its significance became even more pronounced. Despite increased use, it remains unclear what this means in legal terms.
Identifying the legal dimensions of the fundamental political concept of strategic autonomy is at the core of the special issue. The contributions shed light on the various policy dimensions of the challenges facing the EU in this area. The concept of ‘comprehensive security’ is integral to this exploration that includes politico-military, economic, environmental and human aspects.
As the legal questions surrounding strategic autonomy become increasingly practical, the editors and authors recognise the need to consider the political context and relevant debates. They emphasise the relationship between legal frameworks and the broader political landscape. By adopting a comprehensive perspective on security, they aim to unravel the complex legal framework of strategic autonomy, providing valuable insights into the challenges faced by the EU in its pursuit of an autonomous and secure future.
The EU’s identity as a global actor is firmly anchored in a distinct normal and political agenda. The Union has consistently portrayed itself as a normative power committed to the ethos of international law, democracy, human rights and multilateralism. But the success of these efforts depends on its credibility and the extent to which the EU can generate support for and trust in its role as a global power. Externally, the EU’s efforts are complicated by the shifting geopolitical balance of power: the ‘America first’ approach by the US, the rise of protectionism and State-led economies, such as China, increasing migration flows, digitalisation, and climate change. Read more.
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The Russian invasion takes place against the return of hard geopolitics, Great Power competition and the weakening of multilateral institutions. Over the last decade, the EU, a polity but not a state, has been grappling with its response to new dynamics in global politics. Europe’s search for a role has focused on ill-defined concepts such as strategic autonomy and European sovereignty. The collective EU wants to be a player, not a plaything but is challenged by the imbalance between its economic power, diverging preferences of the member states and an inchoate approach to security which relies on NATO and the Transatlantic Alliance. Watch the video.
About Eva Kassoti
Dr Eva Kassoti is a Senior Researcher in International and EU Law as well as the academic co-ordinator for the Centre of the Law of EU External Relations (CLEER) at the T.M.C. Asser Institute. Eva’s research interests include public international law, EU law, EU external relations law, as well as the interplay between the international and the EU legal order. Since November 2020 Eva has been acting as the Co-Chair of the International Law Association (ILA) Study Group on The International Law of Regional Organisations.