Event Summary: Europe’s Quest for Strategic Autonomy

On 28 February, the Dahrendorf Forum hosted an event on Franco-German cooperation and European security in conjunction with the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) and the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI) at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

A working group from IFRI and the SWP presented its report “France, Germany, and the Quest for European Strategic Autonomy”. Strategic autonomy is a declared European goal, stipulated in the EU’s Global Strategy. The report was motivated by a perceived mismatch between ambitions and reality as necessary convergence—vitally between France and Germany—is still missing.

The panel dissected some of the challenges of convergence, pointing to the different strategic cultures and security priorities between member states that become apparent when in relation to intervention, arms exports, and defense spending. The panelists agreed that an increased dialogue and exchange of views would contribute to a closer alignment between member states in areas such as threat analysis, deployment schedules, and training. The recent Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) initiative was welcomed as a big step in the development of European defensive capabilities. Nonetheless, leaders must act urgently to implement the policy as the changing security environment calls for independent crisis management capabilities. This would inevitably necessitate the willingness to accept interdependence between member states. The panelists further highlighted that strategic autonomy, far from duplicating or weakening NATO structures, would help re-establish a balance between the US and EU, as well as producing synergies in fields such as hybrid warfare.