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Progressive pathways to European strategic autonomy. How can the EU become more independent in an increasingly challenging world?


The political debate on European strategic autonomy (ESA) has gained new momentum with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as the repercussions of this war have raised fundamental questions about the EU’s leverage over and dependence on other countries. The main idea behind the concept of ESA is the EU’s ability and means to enhance its freedom from a set of external dependencies – and also to enhance its freedom to conduct its policy autonomously and in line with its fundamental values and interests. Yet does the EU have the capacity and agency to set priorities and make decisions autonomously in its external action? What are political, institutional, and material steps needed to achieve strategic autonomy? Guided by these pressing questions and in search of a progressive answer, FEPS, in partnership with Fondation Jean-Jaurès and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung EU-Office Brussels, conducted a research project between 2020 and 2023 looking into three critical policy domains in which it is vital for Europe to attain the necessary freedom and wherewithal to pursue this objective of ESA: security and defence, economy and trade, and digital and technology. This policy brief summarises the discussions and main findings of our ESA research project. Overall, Europe must adapt to the new and challenging global realities. To do this, the EU needs to act with more unity and coordination in different domains, as well as to build resilience and reduce its external dependence on certain fundamental resources.