31 Mar 2022

The EU’s Strategic Compass

A guide to reverse strategic shrinkage?

Steven Blockmans / Dylan Macchiarini Crosson / Zachary Paikin

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Taking their fate into their own hands, EU heads of state and government endorsed the Strategic Compass on 24 March 2022, a roadmap for becoming a stronger security and defence actor. The shared threat assessment, a first in the history of the EU, is a positive development. Rewritten over the last month to emphasise the impact of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the Strategic Compass reveals a newfound consensus among EU Member States on the danger Russia poses, but also a lack of strategic foresight. This raises the question of whether the final document might contain shortcomings regarding the threat posed by China and the importance of the Indo-Pacific. As such, the document essentially characterises the EU’s security and defence actorness as that of a regional – not a global – power. Divided into four baskets, ‘Act’, ‘Secure’, ‘Invest’, and ‘Partner’, the Strategic Compass appears at times bogged down in policy details rather than answering the tough questions that might reveal an overarching vision for EU security and defence. However, if the measures outlined in the document are reinforced by more effective implementation and duly complemented by NATO’s forthcoming Strategic Concept, then the EU may yet appear more credible in the eyes of others and ultimately, the Strategic Compass will have been ink well spent.