European Strategic Autonomy: Distant but Irresistible

Under pressure from overlapping crises, writes Michal Šimečka in his newest policy paper, the European Union is embracing a more assertive role in security. The election of Donald Trump has added a further sense of urgency and purpose to EU defence cooperation. The pursuit of European strategic autonomy is not just a matter of upgrading capabilities, building institutions, or re-calibrating EU–NATO cooperation. It is also a struggle to re-invent the EU’s identity. The Czech Republic emerged as a supporter of the new dynamic, but Prague should do more to back its rhetorical support with tangible commitments and policy leadership.

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The Czech Republic should:

  • Buttress its political and rhetorical support for EU defence efforts by tangible progress in collaborative ventures under the EU’s pooling and sharing framework, primarily with Germany and/or Visegrad partners, as well as by a commitment (however symbolic at this stage) to further contributions to CSDP missions, building on the Czech presence in EUTM Mali.
  • Actively shape the debate on inclusive parameters of a future Permanent Structured Cooperation, with a view of joining the framework from the outset. • Leverage its strategic partnerships with Poland and Germany to contribute towards a gradual alignment of views between the core drivers of defence integration, above all Germany and France, and traditional sceptics among the new Member States.
  • Provide policy ideas and political leadership on issues bearing on EU–NATO cooperation, especially in the context of synergies and harmonization of both organizations’ capability development planning processes, building on an earlier Czech initiative to reform the NATO–EU Capability Group.
  • Resist the temptation to frame the pursuit of the EU’s strategic autonomy and sharper geopolitical edge as an alternative to the EU’s identity as a champion of global norms.