Global Europe Brief: All about ‘that’ strategy

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The EU’s ‘Strategic Compass’, the closest thing the bloc could have to a military doctrine, is the latest step in accelerating efforts to deepen EU defence cooperation.

But if you want a strategy, you first need a base.

For that, the EU aims to draw up a master military strategy document, similar (but of course different) to NATO’s ‘Strategic Concept’, to define future threats, goals and ambitions in defence while focusing on six new areas of joint weapons development including tanks and fighter jets.

It will cover crisis management, resilience, capability developments, and partnerships, senior EU officials have confirmed, and is seen as an attempt to “fix the doctrine of the EU”.

For long, Berlin had been criticised, mostly by France, for staying away from international military missions and not investing enough in defence. But now the compass project has become one of the main objectives of Germany’s EU presidency.

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, briefed EU foreign ministers on Thursday on the confidential, intelligence-based threat analysis, and EU defence ministers take up the work this Friday, aiming to deliver a final largely classified document in 2022.

The push comes at a time when many EU diplomats and security experts stress that the EU’s threat analysis is running out of time as the bloc’s security problems are multiplying.

“This is not just another report”, a senior EU official said. “This is the path for the EU to plan, spend and cooperate together in countering next-generation threats.”

The compass will need to consider some system of accountability and timelines to ensure that member states adhere to the targets they themselves

“Without such a system, the EU risks repeating the failures of the past – lots of concepts, little capability,” Daniel Fiott, a defence expert at the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), wrote in the latest analysis.

Nevertheless, the term ‘Strategic Compass’ was intended to please and appease those EU countries that see an explicit “European security strategy” as too far-reaching. It’s contents can’t possibly satisfy everyone due to the widening gap between member states’ security priorities.

This is also why the document would not be a list of threats – in part because EU governments have different views on their gravity.

Southern Europeans, and France predominantly, are laying emphasis on the conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, while Russia remains the key threat for Eastern Europeans.

Just as they cannot agree with ‘strategic autonomy’ or with what it actually means for the ‘EU to learn the language of power’.

With the new strategy, the EU might get closer, EU diplomats in Brussels say.


FLAG FLIES HIGH. A majority of Europeans have a favourable opinion of the EU’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent study, conducted before the continent experienced a second wave, has found. While citizens from EU member states surveyed were largely happy with their own country’s handling of the pandemic and the EU’s overall response, views outside the bloc were not too favourable.

SIMMERING TENSIONS. Trade relations are likely to be at the heart of the delayed EU-Africa ‘strategic partnership’, but only if long-standing tensions can be resolved, including different views on the content and form of the future trade partnership.


SPENDING SPREE. The UK announced the biggest increase in British defence spending since the end of the Cold War. The news comes as the UK moves closer to a crunch decision on its future relations with the EU and member states are scrambling to consolidate European defence initiatives.

TERROR REDUX. Europe seems to be caught in a loop: every time there is a terrorist attack somewhere on the continent, there is grief, outrage, and EU leaders promise to do ‘whatever it takes’ to prevent a repeat. But terrorism is a threat without borders, it needs a stringent and robust European strategy.

The EU has promised a coordinated crackdown on Islamist extremism with a new anti-terror plan expected in December, but the bloc walks a fine line in conflating counter-terrorism and integration.

CYBER-SEAT RACE. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has been attempting to make the case for his country to host the new EU cybersecurity centre, according to letters sent to EU leaders and seen by EURACTIV. The decision will require unanimous approval from EU member states. But the call comes only a day after Poland yet again raised eyebrows for its rule of law veto of the EU budget.


UNBLOCKING VETOES. Bulgaria vetoed the decision to open EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia, a move which indirectly also affects Albania, another Western Balkans candidate that has advanced on its EU path in tandem with Skopje. The decision is, however, hardly surprising.

EU-SHIFT. Pro-European challenger Maia Sandu has won the second round of Moldova’s presidential election, well ahead of the pro-Russian incumbent. Moldova’s choice of a pro-EU president is a message to its corrupt political class that people are ready for a change.

But it is also a message to the EU that it should capitalise on this win, revive its involvement in the region, and invest more in security around its borders, writes MEP Siegfried Muresan in an op-ed for EURACTIV.


GENERATION PROTEST. For more than 100 days, Belarusian pro-democracy protesters have been rallying in the streets against President Alexander Lukashenko, following rigged national elections and violence against peaceful demonstrators. We spoke to the Belarusian National Youth Council RADA to explore how young people have been at the forefront of the protests.

PARTNERSHIP BURNING. The EU’s Eastern Partnership format has recently been slightly revamped to allow the three countries with ambitions to join the EU (Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia) to stay in the game, without alienating the other three, which don’t nourish such ambitions. But it is likely it will stay on the EU backburner at least until the second half of 2022.

TOUCHING BASE. EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell and Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, held talks with ministers from the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia, with which the EU is trying to forge closer relations. There was also an exotic element involved in the final communiqué.



Europe’s everyday business has gone back into lockdown reality, until further notice. We’ll keep you updated on all relevant EU foreign affairs news, as we face a busy finish of this troubled 2020.

  • Foreign Affairs Council (Development)
    | Monday, 23 November 2020 | videolink
  • European Parliament plenary session
    | 23-26 November 2020 | Brussels, Belgium

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