European Foreign Policy Think Tanks and ‘Strategic Autonomy’: Making Sense of the EU’s Role in the World of Geoeconomics
Jaša Veselinovič – 2022
During the past decade, European foreign policy has undergone a significant shift away from the notion of Normative Power Europe, culminating in the present ‘geopolitical Commission’ and a geoeconomic understanding of strategic autonomy as the hegemonic foreign policy discourse. European foreign policy think tanks, national and Brussels-based, have played a key role in shaping the policy and discursive content of this shift. Operating in the interstitial field between the world of politics, academia, media, and business, think tanks are at the centre of the power-knowledge nexus. Acting in a transnational space, they Europeanise debates in this traditionally intergovernmental domain by convening elites, (re-)articulating interests and developing a common worldview in a fragmented world of European foreign policy. As such, think tanks present a fruitful but overlooked entry point for providing a non-derivative analysis of European foreign policy(-making) focused on actors and mindful of its social purpose. Illustrating the potentials of focusing on think tanks, this chapter traces the evolution of the concept of strategic autonomy using qualitative content analysis of think tank publications and official policy documents. Think tanks and individual think tankers have been closely involved in producing the EU’s main strategic document, the 2016 European Global Strategy (EUGS). They have helped spur and moderate consequent debates on strategic autonomy that saw a redefinition of the concept from its narrow meaning of favouring state support for European defence industries to a hegemonic and geoeconomics-permeated foreign policy discourse covering an ever-greater array of issues.