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August 1, 2021

Europe in search of a “strategic autonomy” still contested and not very tangible

Emmanuel Macron repeated it, before as during the G7, from Friday 11 to Sunday 13 June in Cornwall: Europe must know how to defend its own interests and develop its “Strategic autonomy”. Thursday, June 10, just before meeting his counterparts, including the American President, Joe Biden, the French Head of State spoke of the need for a “Sovereignty”, just to reassure Berlin. But, in the process, he spoke of a Europe “Which needs to build the framework of its strategic autonomy, in economic, industrial, technological matters, of military value”.

While Brexit and the health crisis have deeply shaken the continent, the notion is now at the heart of the discussions of the Twenty-Seven: it will be widely discussed in Brussels, Monday, June 14, at a NATO summit, as well as the next day, during the one which is to bring together Joe Biden and the leaders of the European institutions. A “reunion” experienced as a relief after the Donald Trump episode, which shook both the Atlantic Alliance and the European Union (EU) now in search of less dependence. Towards China, with regard to industry, commerce or rare metals, Russia in terms of energy, but also the United States, for technology, security and defense.

The debate is still emerging, even theoretical, even if the health crisis has enabled the EU – capable of building a recovery plan and carrying out group purchases of new vaccines – to make its voice heard and its difference heard: showed the G7 on vaccine production and exports to least developed countries, while criticizing the “Vaccine sovereignty” the United States and the United Kingdom, the host country of the meeting. Europe is used to generating concepts “Without defining what they mean and without having indicators measuring their effectiveness”. Does the somewhat cruel analysis by Richard Youngs for the European Democracy Hub apply to discussions on the necessary “Strategic autonomy” from the EU?

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“France is now supported by Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, but it is one of the rare countries to disconnect this theme from the report in Washington, underlines Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, director of the Paris office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Others, like Germany or Poland, fear, on the other hand, that the question of autonomy complicates the relationship with the American ally. “ This specialist in transatlantic issues evokes a “Distorting prism” which therefore blurs the understanding of the project and its possible realization.

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