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Appropriate Level of European Strategic Autonomy


The European Commission’s communication of July 24th, 2013, “Toward a more competitive and efficient defence and security sector”, called for the creation of a strong and competitive armaments industry supporting the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). According to this communication, the European Union “must be able to assume its responsibilities for its own security and for international peace and stability in general. This necessitates a certain degree of strategic autonomy: to be a credible and reliable partner. Europe must be able to decide and to act without depending on the capabilities of third parties. Security of supply, access to critical technologies and operational sovereignty are therefore crucial”. For its part, the EU’s June 2016 global strategy highlighted that having “a sustainable innovative and competitive European defence industry is essential for Europe’s strategic autonomy and for a credible CSDP”. The European Union’s action in terms of regulation and support of the EDTIB depends on the role that States want to entrust the European Union with, in order to develop the EDTIB. Defence companies are economic players. But their sphere of activity relates to a mission: ensuring the security that is exercised by sovereign nations and by the European Union. Beyond the texts, the principle of subsidiarity and its application to the defence industry depends on the States’ answer to these two questions: what will the European Union’s role be in the defence of citizens and its ambition on the international scene? What is the content of the “strategic autonomy” notion and what could the consequences of this notion be on the EDTIB? To answer these questions, we first sought to compare how States perceive the notion of strategic autonomy. We did so through a common template with three issues: (1) What is the meaning of strategic autonomy in each State? (2) What are the consequences of that approach on the armaments acquisition policy, as well as the R&D policy? (3) Lastly, how does each State envision what could be an “appropriate level of strategic autonomy” at European level? 8 States or group of States were analysed: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the UK and Baltic States (Brexit is taken into account in the analysis). Lastly, after the study and comparison of these various “case studies”, we determined what possible templates for “an appropriate level of strategic autonomy at European level” could be, and the consequences of these templates. It appears that European strategic autonomy could’nt be defined on the basis of the EU Member States’ shared interests, leading to strategic autonomy being the lowest common denominator between the States. On the contrary, this strategic autonomy must be a European goal that transcends the States’ interests, allowing Member States to better ensure their safety.