“Une Union toujours plus géopolitique ?” (“An Ever More Geopolitical Union?”)

In: Le Grand Continent

In the wake of the speech on the state of the Union by the President von der Leyen, this policy paper sheds some light on what a “geopolitical” Union may mean in more concrete terms. In particular, the paper looks first at the Union's overall strategy – or “grand strategy” – to cope with geopolitical challenges and then at how this grand strategy may be applied through three specific examples: defence (an issue which was largely absent from von der Leyen's speech), industrial policy and, lastly, climate policy. In these three policy domains, the European Union is faced with different types of strategic problems, however. EU defence policy, for example, still progresses essentially "from the bottom up", notably through its economic and capability dimensions, but without being guided by a clear level of political ambition. In consequence, EU defence policy remains ill-suited to deal with contemporary geopolitical upheavals and with the return of great power competition. In the field of industry, the stakes are quite different. While strengthening the Union's industrial policy, it has become necessary to ensure that the latter works well in tandem with its trade and competition policies. The question here is therefore one of ensuring horizontal coordination within the Union. Finally, with regard to climate change, the Union has to deal with a challenge which is the reverse, one could say, of the one it faces with respect to defence policy: it essentially consists in turning a clear and ambitious vision, expressed at the highest level of the Union, into a project that is truly shared across all sectors of the economy and between all member states. In sum, to face the geopolitical marathon that lies ahead, the Union must be able to rally around a common ambition, but without losing sight of how the latter can be tangibly implemented every step of the way.