The Strategic Compass: a Guide for European Defence and EU-NATO Cooperation?

Fabio Maina
November 2021

This paper illustrates the potential role that the European Union’s (EU’s) recently launched Strategic Compass can play in guiding European defence planning, improving collaborative capability developments via PESCO, and reinforcing EU-NATO synergies. We first provide a general overview of the development of the EU’s Level of Ambition, from the initial ‘Headline Goal’ to the EU ‘Global Strategy’ of 2016, and the resultant capability needs. Next, we revisit recent EU defence initiatives’ main features, and the relationship between these tools. Our analysis then moves to a comparison between EU and NATO defence planning, to try to identify any similarities and differences, followed by a reflection on some common priorities, and divergences between the two organisations. Finally, after a brief exam of the status of PESCO, the paper ends with an illustration of the Strategic Compass’ potential as political guidance for EU defence planning and PESCO, as well as for a clear division of labour between the EU and NATO.

Keywords: Strategic compass, European defence, European Union, NATO, PESCO

Fabio Maina is a Master student in International Science - European Studies at the University of Torino

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