Europe in the World


A Tale of Two Dependencies: European Strategic Autonomy in the Field of Energy

08 Nov 2023 - 10:04
Source: Gas bubbles from the Nord Stream 2 leak reaching surface of the Baltic Sea in the area shows disturbance of well over one kilometre diameter near Bornholm, Denmark, September 27, 2022. Danish Defence Command/Handout via REUTERS

This article was previously published in European Foreign Affairs Review, Vol. 28, issue 4. This publication is part of a special issue on strategic autonomy.

The concept of European strategic autonomy (ESA) in the energy field gained particular traction after the Russian invasion of Ukraine showed the extent and risks of fossil energy dependency on autocratic regimes. Fossil dependency on undemocratic and unstable petrostates is a critical weakness that increases the European Union’s (EUs) vulnerability and limits its capacity to act. This liability stretches beyond the dependency on Russia since the EU imports from many other countries that are undemocratic and heavily reliant on oil and gas revenues. Increasing new sources of renewable energy helps to address this issue, but also brings new dependencies, namely on critical raw materials (CRMs) whose value chains are largely in Chinese hands. This paper argues that the EU should nevertheless continue to reduce its fossil dependencies on petrostates and consider more pro-actively how to manage the energy relationship with them. Simultaneously, in the area of CRMs it needs to expand its partnerships, recycling capacities and research and development (R&D) into diversification into alternative materials for green energy technologies.

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