This working paper maps and analyses the foreign policy of thirteen selected European Union (EU) Member States (MS) with a focus on their present and long-term defence and security strategies. It considers high-level primary sources in order to evaluate possible incompatibilities in foreign policy amongst EU MS and to assess challenges and possibilities for the external action of the Union in the areas of security and defence.

The mapping exercise reveals that EU MS tend to hold a common assessment of their security and geopolitical environments, and largely converge around priority challenges and security threats. Firstly, The MS national strategies present a global geopolitical environment undergoing rapid transformations amidst a back drop of complicating factors such as the US-China systemic rivalry, climate change, technological disruption, resource scarcity and disinformation, which are compounded with more traditional security issues such as terrorism, extremism and the prevalence of weapons of mass destruction.

Secondly, strategic thinking of EU MS aims at enhanced capacity in “broad security” areas such as hybrid warfare, disinformation, health, migration, natural disasters and climate, and cybersecurity. Finally, the MS’ strategic orientations are largely bound to their geographical position: their assessments of threats and geopolitical trends as well as their hierarchies of priorities are deeply linked to their geographical position, regional neighbourhood and adjacent areas.

We conclude that gaps exist in the strategic thinking amongst MS and between MS and EU institutions, but these divergences are not insurmountable obstacles to a deeper cooperation and a more coordinated EU external action.

As long as priorities and essential interests are commonly grounded and not diametrically opposed, the challenge for joined-up external action lies at the level of policy- and decision-making and in the quest for capabilities and resources that are able to bolster actions that satisfy individual MS objectives.

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