The EU's Strategic Compass

Berlin is pushing the EU to adopt a document on fundamental military policy. Its core: Intelligence services' threat assessment.

BERLIN (Own report) - The German government seeks to have a common "Strategic Compass" adopted, to orient the EU's military policy. The planned strategy paper is aimed at providing the Union's current militarization projects - such as PESCO and the EU Battlegroups - a consistent thrust and to enhance the EU's military response capacity. It is also aimed at aligning the EU member states' national armaments projects with the Union's overall strategic needs. During its EU Council presidency, Berlin seeks to lay the foundations for a new EU common threat assessment, as the core element of the "Strategic Compass." It is to be compiled on the basis of national intelligence services' assessments by their EU counterpart the "European Union Intelligence and Situation Centre" (EU IntCen). The threat assessment, which also lays the groundwork for future EU military operations, will thus not be subject to any democratic control. It is also aimed at unifying the strategies of EU member countries with divergent national interests.

"One of the Most Important Projects"

Last year, the German government presented its plan to create a "Strategic Compass" for the EU. Since then, all EU states have supported the initiative and even consider it to be "one of the most important projects in the near future," according to Detlef Wächter, Political Director of the German Ministry of Defense.[1] On June 16, the EU defense ministers commissioned the EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell to launch the development of a "Strategic Compass" - based on the EU's Global Strategy, presented in June 2016. On July 13, Wächter discussed the project with his counterparts from the other EU states and German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer presented it to the relevant EU parliamentary committees as the core of Berlin's EU Council presidency, on July 14. August 26, the EU defense ministers are scheduled to discuss the document again. According to the plan, the "Strategic Compass" will be further elaborated under the EU Council presidencies of Portugal and Slovenia and adopted during the first six months of 2022, under French EU Council presidency - as a document binding on all EU member states.

Without Democratic Control

The key element of the "strategic compass" will be the establishment of a common "threat assessment," binding for all EU member countries - a historical precedent for the EU. This should be completed by the end of the year, meaning still within the German EU Council presidency. As Wächter notes, the threat assessment is conceived as a "document of the intelligence services," not as a "political paper." It will be compiled by the Union's relevant administration, the EU IntCen (European Union Intelligence and Situation Center),[2] on the basis of the information submitted by the member countries' intelligence services. There will be no final approval by member countries. Thus, the core element of the fundamental document determining the EU's future foreign and military policies will be without any democratic control. Therefore, among other things, the EU is basing its decisions on future military interventions on the groundwork of espionage agencies. The intelligence services have, in the past, distinguished themselves by using lies to justify going to war and by their involvement in abductions and torture of suspects within the framework of the "war on terror."[3]

Objective: "Greater Operability"

Once it is established in the first semester of 2022, the "strategic compass" - which is supposed to disclose common military objectives based on a common threat assessment - will focus the EU's relevant activities. As Kramp-Karrenbauer declared, this should enable "a greater operability to be attained at EU level."[4] Accordingly, the "compass" should integrate existing EU military projects - such as PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) and the EU Battlegroups - into a common strategy. It must be additionally determined "which individual instruments and capacities will be needed by the EU," notes Berlin's ministry of defense.[5] Thus, the "compass" will have a direct influence on the Union's weapons procurement.

NATO: "Still Irreplaceable"

Kramp-Karrenbauer is also clearly in favor of systematically seeking cooperation with non-EU allies, in spite of all the EU-centered military planning. She announced in the EU parliamentary committees last week that during its term as EU Council President, Germany will seek to integrate the United Kingdom into the PESCO projects. British potentials should also be used in the service of the EU.[6] Berlin views Norway similarly. According to Kramp-Karrenbauer, the cooperation with the United States, particularly within the framework of NATO, is completely indispensable. "We must absolutely keep in mind that, we, as a whole, within the European Union, have a long way to go before we can replace the capabilities of NATO and our transatlantic partners with our own EU capacities," observed the minister. For example, the war alliance has disposed of reliable command structures already for decades; in the EU they must "first be trained." "This is why NATO is and will continue to remain a cornerstone of European security," explained Kramp-Karrenbauer. At the same time, one must, however, take into consideration that some conflicts are tangent more on the interests of the EU than of NATO. For these cases, we must be independently operative. These would call for the EU's own military capabilities.

Bring into Line

Over the past few days, Kramp-Karrenbauer made her first official trip since the Covid-19 lockdown. She visited the Visegrád countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary) and Bulgaria, to promote the idea of the "strategic compass."[7] Foreign and military policy concepts diverging from Germany's were also a reason for her trip, at least in some of those countries. Poland is strongly oriented toward the USA and seeks to increase US troop deployment in that country, which would make German control of the continent more difficult. Germany's ministry of defense has informed Warsaw that the EU's planned common threat assessment could intensify German-Polish cooperation. She would also hope for additional concrete German-Polish projects. This applies also to the arms industry. Poland could possibly participate in building the new Franco-German battle tank.[8] Warsaw is currently buying a large amount of arms from the USA, which means a possible export loss for German weapons manufacturers. Budapest, on the other hand, has already begun purchasing large quantities of weapons in Germany. Last year's €1.8 billion order made it the German arms manufacturers' biggest customer. However, Berlin is critical of the fact that Hungary is occasionally less enthusiastic than desired in its support for western military posturing in relationship to Russia, a factor, that the EU's "strategic compass" could correct in Berlin's favor.


[1] Interview: Strategischer Kompass soll EU den Weg weisen. 17.07.2020.

[2] See also A European CIA (II).

[3] See also Es begann mit einer Lüge, Bloßgestellt and 17 Years "War on Terror".

[4] AKK stellt EU-Parlament Prioritäten der Ratspräsidentschaft vor. 15.07.2020.

[5] Sonja Momberg: Strategischer Kompass: Entwicklung strategischer Grundlagen. 13.07.2020.

[6] AKK stellt EU-Parlament Prioritäten der Ratspräsidentschaft vor. 15.07.2020.

[7] Timo Kather: AKK wirbt in Mittel- und Osteuropa für eine Post-COVID-Ordnung. 20.07.2020.

[8] Monika Sieradzka: Kramp-Karrenbauer will einen "strategischen Kompass" für Europa. 16.07.2020.