According to online news, Volker Pertz In an article for the German newspaper Handels Blot is writing: The recent media dispute between the German defense minister and the French president over “strategic autonomy” in Europe only showed the fact that the two European powers are targeting each other in two completely parallel worlds. The background to this old debate about Europe’s “strategic sovereignty” goes back, however, not inside the EU but outside the EU: since the beginning of the 2010s, rivalries over power and violent conflicts in Europe’s neighborhood have intensified. Europe had to deal with efforts to deepen divisions within the union, and later Europe was caught up in the Trump administration’s anti-European stances on the one hand, and the rapid erosion of the international order on the other. All these events have led Europeans to become aware of the fact that the European Union and European countries must take more and more independent responsibility for their own security and prosperity and for maintaining international order. In 2017, the German Chancellor explicitly stated that Europe must now take control of its own destiny.
The Aachen Agreement between France and Germany was signed in 2019 with the aim of achieving a “strong and independent” union. The terms “strategic autonomy” and “European sovereignty” are used interchangeably in the encyclopedia of European politicians. Some also prefer the term “European self-belief” as an alternative. But according to one European diplomat, the term “strategic autonomy” is more consensual at EU level because it is a general term and avoids specific definitions, given the ongoing efforts in Brussels for compromise and consensus. Is understanding. However, if the term is used not only as a slogan but also to provide guidance for making the right political decisions, the explanation of the term becomes inevitable. If it is clarified exactly what the concepts of “sovereignty” or “European autonomy” mean and what they mean, a significant part of the misunderstandings between partners inside and outside the Union will certainly be lost. The Science and Politics Foundation first defined the term two years ago.
Strategic autonomy in this definition means “the ability to prioritize foreign and security policy and decision-making power.” Strategic autonomy also means that political decisions and their institutional, political, and material requirements are made in such a way that these decisions can be made in cooperation with third parties. And even run it independently if necessary. Having more independence enables a political actor to set, maintain or develop his own rules in the international arena. On the other hand, actors with less independence only follow the laws or strategic decisions of third countries. In a world affected by the phenomenon of globalization, independence or strategic sovereignty must include all international dimensions, not just the military or defense dimension. Of course, the principle of autonomy is always relative, not absolute: in international politics, the issue has always been more or less autonomy. In addition, autonomy does not necessarily mean self-sufficiency or isolation and rejection of international alliances and alliances, but an autonomous actor decides on the basis of his or her priorities which alliances or alliances to join.
For example, Europe has clearly chosen a transatlantic alliance based on its values and interests. Autonomy or strategic sovereignty cannot be achieved equally in all political spheres. In economic and trade policies or even data protection, Europe is quite capable of announcing and enforcing its own priorities and preferences around the world. The biggest gap between ambition and reality, however, arises in Europe’s military capabilities, and other areas in Europe still have much room for improvement. With regard to US extraterritorial sanctions, for example, it became clear that Europe did not yet have the tools to implement its independent and autonomous decisions, including maintaining its inalienable right to legitimate trade with Iran. This experience shows that if the EU and European governments want more independence and sovereignty, they must set realistic goals.
Realism in security and defense policy means that we Europeans acknowledge and accept that in the near future there will be no comprehensive, conventional and independent command structure or strategic deterrent capability specific to Europe. This is where Europe will actually depend on the capabilities of NATO and the United States, yet we must try to strengthen the NATO pillar in Europe politically and militarily. A higher degree of independence for Europe is also achieved within the framework of the European Union and, above all, in crisis management, in the ability to resolve, for example, armed conflicts in neighboring countries or in dealing with terrorist actors.
Beyond defense policy, one of the main priorities of efforts to achieve autonomy in Europe should not only be the imposition of international sanctions, but most importantly the ability to circumvent international sanctions. Of course, in the coming years, international sanctions The United States will be less discussed by Europeans, instead Europe should wait for Chinese extraterritorial sanctions, for example, against companies that invest in Taiwan or do not want to participate in the Silk Road strategic project. . Strategic autonomy for Europe will certainly require resisting potential pressures from China: either through strong financial instruments or through deterrent countermeasures, Europe must be able to withstand such pressures. In the meantime, efforts to develop “digital governance” are also a high priority. Here, too, the issue is not “achieving self-sufficiency” or “isolating” Europe, but the goal of setting standards and laws and protecting the data of European citizens against companies and countries that do not comply with such laws.
In the past, any debate about European sovereignty or autonomy in the United States has raised concerns. Above all, there was concern that Europe might, by increasing its military capabilities, waste only its financial resources in the most optimistic case, or withdraw from its military and security dependence on the United States in the most pessimistic case. But surely the next US administration will show less sensitivity and consideration in this regard. Washington is likely to even want Europe to acquire the skills and capabilities to deal with security issues in its neighborhood. If that happens then even future transatlantic relations will benefit.
Translator: Abdul Wahid Afsari