Print version

The Quest for European Autonomy


In his In Defence of Europe, Loukas Tsoukalis posits that globalization and European integration are two sides of the same coin. Both are premised on the gains in peace and prosperity to be reaped by openness and interdependence. Hence, the twin crises of globalization and European integration are not merely closely intertwined; their fundamentally similar natures mean the latter has been unable to control the excesses of the former. Moreover, the European project has been undergirded by an international liberal order resting on US hegemony. As that order has started to crack, with the USA unable and unwilling to sustain the system that it was decisive in establishing, and other global powers challenging its core norms, the EU’s vulnerabilities are coming to the fore. For decades, the EU has pursued its internal and international policies insulated from geopolitical encroachments. Today, Europeans find themselves exposed to the vulnerabilities of asymmetric interdependence, lacking not the capabilities but rather the psychological predisposition and political willingness to act together. Appreciating this predicament, several European leaders have called for European sovereignty, power, and autonomy. Underpinning these slogans is the recognition that if Europeans are to stand up to Trump, Putin, and Xi, and manage the epochal challenges stemming from demography, climate change, and the digital age, they can only do so together. This chapter concludes by outlining what European sovereignty and autonomy may mean, notably in the economic, digital, and defence fields, and why meeting the challenge of autonomy is existential for the European project.