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A European Strategy Is Missing in Action

While the single market is a valuable asset, it cannot be Europe’s sole frame of reference. To become an effective strategic actor, the EU must make the most of all of the tools at its disposal, and that requires developing a compelling strategic vision and engaging in effective longer-term planning.

MADRID – Each February, the Munich Security Conference offers an opportunity to take the temperature of international affairs, especially transatlantic relations. This year’s results are far from encouraging. Speeches and conversations highlighted, yet again, the widening divide between the United States and Europe, even as they pointed to a shared preoccupation with China. Perhaps more consequentially, they highlighted the world’s return to great-power competition – and Europe’s utter lack of any actionable strategy for navigating it.

This is not news to the European Union’s leaders. Even before European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared hers a “geopolitical” Commission, the imperative of achieving “strategic autonomy” had moved to the forefront of the policy debate. This suggests that Europeans are finally accepting some hard truths: the transatlantic relationship is irrevocably changed; competition is displacing cooperation; and Europe is in danger of becoming an arena for that competition, rather than a player in its own right.

The escalating Sino-American rivalry has underscored this danger. European plans to engage the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei in building up its 5G infrastructure have run up against strong opposition from US President Donald Trump’s administration, which banned the firm from its own telecoms market, owing to security concerns. (The US has now charged Huawei and two of its subsidiaries with federal racketeering and conspiracy to steal trade secrets from American companies.)

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