The European Union (EU) has witnessed multiple geopolitical shifts over the past decades: rising tensions with Russia on the eastern border (Georgia, Ukraine), regional instability on its southern border (migration crisis, rise of terrorism), the emergence of a new technological and economic superpower (China), and a shift in historic alliances (American pivot toward Asia, weakening of NATO). Confronted with this new reality, the EU has placed “strategic autonomy” at the heart of its foreign policy to reduce vulnerabilities and increase its “capacity to act autonomously when and where it is necessary.” Eurasia Group has asked the Capstone team to focus on the concept of European Strategic Autonomy (ESA), by examining the “necessary instruments, capacities and capabilities of the EU to act upon its decisions.” The Capstone team “characterized the current level of European strategic autonomy and assessed its medium-term (5-year) prospects.” They identified four areas of interest, based on relevance for EU current priorities: defense, trade, technology and climate policy. 

The team first introduced the evolution of the concept of ESA and why it is currently of critical concern to the EU and its Member States. The paper was then divided into four sections focusing on each area of interest. As a baseline for the research, the Capstone team defined the current status of autonomy in the EU, and formulated a five-year prognosis of ESA’s potential impact, based on an analysis of ongoing and prospective policy initiatives, historical EU decision-making patterns, anticipated geopolitical trends, and potential internal and external political developments.