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In September 2020, during an event run by the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel, the Belgian-born President of the European Council, Charles Michel, gave a speech entitled “Strategic Autonomy for Europe—The Aim of Our Generation.” This represents an extraordinary development for a concept that appeared relatively recently in a sentence found in European Council conclusions. Extraordinary because, according to Charles Michel, by becoming the Union’s goal over the next twenty or thirty years, strategic autonomy provides the European project with fresh impetus. It is widely accepted that, since the middle of the 2000s following the introduction of the single currency and the great unification of the European continent, the European Union (EU) has seen its project hit by a crisis. In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, this crisis may even have verged on the scale of existential. Strategic autonomy would thus constitute a new horizon for the European project, a new path for this “ever closer union” renounced by the British.
Lightning-speed shifts on the geopolitical stage have played a key part in paving the way for the rise of strategic autonomy as a notion. Donald Trump’s term as president in the United States was an especially significant driver of unity and togetherness in Europeans. Despite the sighs of relief that greeted Joe Biden’s election victory among European administrations, questions around Europe’s standing on the global stage and its strategic autonomy have not disappeared…

Maxime Lefebvre
Maxime is a diplomat and affiliate professor at the ESCP Business School, whose publications include La construction de l’Europe et l’avenir des nations (“The Construction of Europe and the Future of Nations”) (Armand Colin, 2013) and La politique étrangère de la France (“France’s Foreign Policy”) (Presses universitaires de France, “Que sais-je?” series, 2019). [1]
  • [1]
    Maxime Lefebvre’s views in this article are expressed in a personal capacity.
Édouard Simon
Research Director at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS).
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