15. July 2021

EU Strategic Autonomy: Unpacking the 'essentially contested concept' EU Strategic Autonomy: Unpacking the 'essentially contested concept'

Article by Dr. Iulian Romanyshyn, Charlemagne Prize Fellow at CASSIS, at Encompass Europe on one of Brussels favorite buzzwords: "Strategic Autonomy".

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There are few buzzwords that are more popular in the Brussels quarters than strategic autonomy. ‘Effective strategic autonomy’, ‘smart strategic autonomy’, ‘open strategic autonomy’ – the conceptual proliferation is now fully underway in EU discourse and documents. While this expansion is symptomatic of the EU’s drive for more self-sufficient standing in a growing number of policy fields – from industry and trade to energy and health – all the various adjectives reflect the absence of agreed understanding of what strategic autonomy means, as well as the lack of established boundaries of where it starts and where it ends. Strategic autonomy has become what political scientists call ‘an essentially contested concept’, one that involves endless disputes on its proper use on the part of its users.

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