Strategic compass – A review of the first year of implementation

Strategic compass – A review of the first year of implementation


On Monday 20 March, the Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers of the 27 Member States, meeting in jumbo format, adopted the first report on the implementation of the Strategic Compass. The document should set the course for European defence and security for the next decade. 

One year after its adoption, Josep Borrell underlined the « significant progress and concrete results achieved in the four chapters of the ‘Strategic Compass’ (act, secure, invest and participate) ».

The High Representative of the Union insists on the Union transformation following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, considering that it has «boosted the credibility » of the EU’s security and defence agenda. He particularly welcomed the « unprecedented increase in defence budgets ». The 6% increase in 2021 brought EU budgets to a total of €214 billion. And a total additional budget of €75 billion is expected by 2025. 

Unsurprisingly, the report points to the European Peace Facility’s success, a real « game changer » in European policy, which made it possible to finance « for the first time » the supply of lethal equipment to Ukraine in « record time ». 

The two billion euros committed under the European Defence Fund (EDF), the setting up of an innovation hub at the European Defence Agency (EDA) and of the Critical Technology Observatory in February to « identify strategic dependencies », as well as the legislative proposal on critical rare materials were also welcomed. Specific roadmaps are expected by the end of 2023.

In addition, the report notes progress with the EU’s rapid deployment capability, and the development of new tools to anticipate and counter hybrid threats, strengthen cyber defence and combat disinformation campaigns and foreign interference.

More work needed

The need to continue efforts is nevertheless stressed, as « the world (…) is changing radically and our security environment has deteriorated further ».

The loss of political mobilisation is particularly worrying in Brussels. The implementation of the Compass depends above all on the goodwill of the member states, which are facing numerous challenges (financing support for Ukraine, energy crisis). 

Two elements are of particular concern. On the one hand, « PESCO has not used its full potential » due to a lack of « solid and continuous » commitment from the Member States. On the other hand, common expenditure is not increasing sufficiently. From 11% to 18% in 2021, it remains below the 35% target. « We must increase coordination of our defence spending » and industrial « cooperation », the report warns. The risk is to « fragment the EU’s defence industry even further ».

To this end, the Commission and the EEAS are working on the revision of the Capability Development Plan (CDP), due in autumn 2023.

Read the full report