European Strategic Autonomy – development of the United States of Europe project

63 High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Joseph Borrel published an article on December 3 titled «Why European Strategic Autonomy Matters». Borrel believes that the European Union must develop strategic autonomy and strengthen defense capability of the community. “Intensification of EU defense policy is not luxuriance but the need. EU must be able to act autonomously if need be. In other words, we must develop strategic autonomy, strengthen operational effectiveness, civil and military abilities and use them as well”, said Joseph Borrel at an annual conference of the European defense establishment.

It should be noted that the project of amalgamation of all European countries into supranational structure existed through many centuries in various forms including/cancelling England, Russia and Turkey. This idea has been espoused by prominent politicians, monarchs and public figures, including Napoleon I, Wilhelm II, Winston Churchill, Valerie d’Estaing, etc. The Third Peace Congress was held on August 21, 1849 in Paris. Victor Hugo submitted a draft political implementation of the   idea – United States of Europe (USE). From now on the idea gained momentum among Social-Democrats: creation of Republican USE as a counterbalance to allies and military blocks. Of interest is the fact that Lenin criticized this idea in his article «On Slogan of the United States of Europe» (1915) as saying that under the capitalism this formation cannot be made, either impossible, or reactionary. Note that the USE project began developing after the Second World War in terms of capitalism. There is a reason to believe that the current idea of European Strategic Autonomy (ЕSА) is a continuation of USE project. Why?

In 2002, Valerie d’Estaing submitted a report titled «Convention of Future Europe» which offered to transform the EU into USE as a confederation of states. The report was backed by Great Britain, France and Spain.

In 2017, leader of Social-Democrats of Germany Martin Schulz called out to set up USE by 2025. The promotion agreement is to be submitted to EU member-states for ratification while opponents of its establishment will have to abandon the bloc. Of interest is the fact that straw polls of European populations about USE establishment  showed results as follows: Germany (30 % – for; 33 % – against), France (28 % – for, 26 % – against), Denmark (12 % – for, 48 % – against), Finland (13 % – for, 48 % – against), Sweden (13 % – for, 56 % – against) and Norway (12 % – for, 55 % – against), i.e. poll results turned out more discouraging. The reason is that an idea of USE creation has been explained as being due to machinations of secret mason organizations. The point is that as far back as in the times of V. Hugo they were eager to create a single superpower in Europe to absorb separate nations. More prosaic explanation goes back to apprehensions of minor countries of Europe to become a hostage of the German-French locomotive.

What on earth is this ЕSA? For some analysts, this is a principal motto of united Europe implying self-containment and independent development of economy in the post-pandemic world. «Strategic independence of Europe is our common project in the 21 century,-EU President Charles Michel declared in September as saying that ESA is the most important challenge of our generation». When asked that this aspiration might undermine block’s adherence to free trade, he emphasized that «autonomy is not protectionism, quite the reverse».

As viewed by E. Macron, a President of the country that pushes forward the ESA concept  «nearly three years»,  under the project is meant «our sovereignty and our capability to reduce dependence upon the rest of the world and strengthen our production companies». German Chancellor А. Merkel is prone to adopt French’s position: the two countries are discussing measures to develop promising technologies and thus reduce continent’s dependence. In particular, Berlin and Paris agreed to launch a joint «hydrogen» project till the end of 2020 and discuss the possibility of joint work in «cloud» sector, 5G and artificial intelligence.

Many European countries are apprehensive that aspirations for greater autonomy will contribute to further development of the French and German Economy at the expense of minor European countries. It ought to be noted that the coalition of 19 EU states (Baltic and Scandinavian countries, Benelux, Austria, Croatia, Czechia, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Spain) are negative about this idea because of its disguised protectionism. Note that «EU Global Strategy» for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 is based on ESA concept that deals with questions of European foreign policy and comes out as continuation of the Strategy of European security- 2003 during the crisis of relations between the USA and a number of European states.

It has to be kept in mind that that the central point of ESA is the creation of independent armed forces capable of pursuing independent political, diplomatic and economic initiatives of united Europe. Note that projects are not new : as far back as in 1998 the French-British summit came to the conclusion: the EU «must be capable of autonomous actions with special emphasis on armed forces and preparedness to apply them in terms of international crises».

Note that the German Institute for Security and International Affairs pointed out that the strategic autonomy is a capability «of establishing its own priorities and adopting independent decisions in foreign policy and security together with institutional, political and material means of their implementation – in collaboration with third parties or independently, if necessary». In this respect the EU must advance from subordination to external rules to capability of independently establishing, modifying and applying international regulations.

It is obvious that this position is reflective of the latest practice incorporated by the United States, China and Russia. In so doing, the EU is seeking to turn «Club of Three» into «Club of Four by means of ESA. «Europe must develop and defend its own strategic autonomy in this multipolar world order. Account has to be taken of how Europe is building its relations with key actors – USA, China and Russia, as well as medium and minor countries and how these subjects are positioning themselves with strategically independent European Union» – A report  from «European Strategic Autonomy. Actors, Issues, Conflicts of Interests». 04.03.19.

Even in terms of aggravation of US-European relations under the Trump administration, the EU will have it out with the United States as guarantors of security of European countries.  Of interest is EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Joseph Borrel’s article published on December 3 and titled «Why European Strategic Autonomy Matters» (03. 12.20).

Having emphasized that the ESA is a part of EU agreed language, the author points out that the concept has for long dealt with defense and security issues. In this respect the debates over ESA focused on confrontation between those viewing the strategic autonomy as means of restoring the political expanse in respect of the United States, and others suggesting to avoid it due to disengagement with Americans. The said strategy was expanded at the expense of new subjects of economic and technological nature and pandemic. As for relations with the NATO, J. Borrel refers to the well-known maxima: «capability to act when and where necessary, and with partners when possible».

At the same time, nobody challenges the importance of Trans-Atlantic relations, nor stands for the creation of fully autonomous European forces beyond NATO limits that remain to be a solely viable structure to ensure territorial security of Europe.

The high representative believes that the problem lies in the fact that not all EU member-countries properly appreciate the ESA interpretation. The real cause of ESA topicality is in grandiose transformation of the world where «global actor» becomes «autonomous». As a counterbalance, Europe’s significance worldwide falls; 30 years ago it had a quarter of global wealth; according to forecasts, its share will make up just 11% of world GDP in 20 years (China – 22%, USA – 14%, India–11%). In this respect, the ESA is a process of political survival. This survival takes place in terms of transformation of economic interdependence as conflict factor while the so-called soft power turns into instrument of hard power.

It should be added that the pandemic crisis revealed asymmetric nature of mutual dependence and vulnerability of Europe. Sciences, technologies, trade and investments are becoming sources and instruments of force in the international policy.

Another important cause is the shift in emphasis to Asia, especially in the US policy. At present, Europe is faced with conflicts and has to act independently: the United States believes that these conflicts have nothing in common with them.

When dealt with Nagorno Karabakh, Libya and Syria, the EU is witnessing «astanization» of regional conflicts (Astana format on Syria is meant) which led to Europe’s pushing out of settlement of regional conflict in favor of Russia and Turkey.

It should be added that not all European states see issues identically due to varied history and geography. Perception of threats and dangers in the east, south or south-east is different. A strategic compass is required to harmonize risks and challenges.

However, the ESA cannot express preferences of powerful states: no state in Europe is entitled to do lecturing to others.

The time passed when the need in common foreign policy and security was denied or taken not seriously.

The Biden’s election will result in more fruitful transatlantic dialogue: from struggle with the pandemic to the trade, security and climate. More autonomous Europe is capable of cooperating with the new US administration. That’s why Borrel believes that the ESA is fully compliant with solid Trans-Atlantic bonds and even comes out as prerequisite for it.

ESA goes behind security and defense to include trade, finances and investments. It is essential to develop Euro’s international role to thus avoid the breach of law under secondary sanctions and ensure standard rules when dealt with China in the matter of investment standards.

Further complicating the case was Covid-19 crisis. Europe should diversify sources of its deliveries and provide stimuli for companies concerned. Another question is the strategic autonomy. Europe of 21 century cannot leave its data to the discretion of market participants or confiscate them from the state. Contributing to it is the true European model.

The philosophy of the Borrel’s article suggests the following: «Strategic autonomy is not a magic wand it is a long-term process aimed at greater responsibility of Europeans. To protect our interests and values worldwide which makes us to be on our own and thus guarantee our future». It is rather difficult to find a state or a statesman who could disagree with this conclusion. This means that the EU has entered the USE formation.

P.S. A theme of a separate article is the transformation of relations between the EU and countries of South Caucasus in the light of ESA and political activity of France.


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