With all eyes on the next Russian move in Ukraine, the notion of European strategic autonomy is experiencing a revival. At first glance, this seems overdue given that talks between Washington and Moscow bypass Brussels entirely. But beyond a limited use for the concept to help mitigate vulnerabilities resulting from dependencies and credibly malign actors that can exploit them, the notion remains surplus to requirements. Broad use of the term ‘EU strategic autonomy’, as is in vogue, risks giving populism and nationalism an unnecessary impulse. It also risks unmooring the EU from its collaborative and compromise-oriented essence because it depicts the world outside the EU as a swamp where danger lurks behind every tree. If EU Member States want a more assertive and capable set of institutions that act on their behalf, they should just get on with their unfinished business – the Single European Market, industrial/digital policy, fiscal transfers and defence/security policy.
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