Europe wants ‘strategic autonomy’ — it just has to decide what that means

While the policies remain hazy, politicians’ remarks on ‘strategic autonomy’ have already caused a stir.

«Strategic autonomy» is the EU’s latest catchphrase, its label for the bloc’s push to increase self-sufficiency and boost its own industry in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

After the «America first» motto, and Beijing’s «Made in China 2025″ strategy, it’s the old continent’s turn to turn its gaze inward.

But before they can implement it, leaders across the EU have to agree on what it means exactly.

“The strategic independence of Europe is our new common project for this century,» European Council President Charles Michel said last month. «European strategic autonomy is goal No. 1 for our generation.” In response to concerns that this drive would undercut the bloc’s free-trade orthodoxy, Michel said: “Autonomy is not protectionism; it is the opposite.”

But not everyone is convinced.

The slogan has caused a stir among EU heads of states and government, who after heated discussions in early October conceded that “strategic autonomy” is a “key objective” of the bloc, while “maintaining an open economy.”

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