A Strategic Compass to strengthen the security and defence of the European Union by 2030


The Strategic Compass, the EU’s first white paper on security and defence, was endorsed by the Heads of State and Government at the European Council meeting of 24 and 25 March 2022. At a time when our strategic environment has been degraded, marked by the return of war to Europe, heightened competition between state powers and the persistence of crises in our neighbourhood and around the world, the EU is starting a new chapter in its defence and security policy by equipping itself with the necessary means to confront current and future threats and challenges.

Why does the EU need a Strategic Compass?

In response to major geopolitical shifts at work and an increasingly degraded security environment, the EU adopted an ambitious action plan to strengthen its security and defence policy by 2030.

The Strategic Compass is the result of work started in 2020 among the institutions and Member States, and is based on a common analysis of the threats and vulnerabilities that Europeans are faced with collectively. This unprecedented exercise in the history of the EU contributed to the emergence of a common strategic culture and the strengthening of cohesion among Europeans in the field of defence and security, as war returns to the European continent.

Based on this common interpretation of our security environment, the Compass establishes the major strategic guidelines and new European initiatives to be implemented in order to enable Europeans to defend their interests and their freedom of action wherever necessary: in seas and oceans, airspace, outer space, cyber space, and the information space.

The evolution of the European strategic and security environment requires a decisive leap, to increase our capacity to act, strengthen our resilience and further invest in our defence capabilities, in tandem with the efforts made in the framework of NATO.

The document presents concrete actions together with a specific implementation schedule in order to strengthen the EU’s capacity to take action decisively in the event of crisis and to ensure the security of European citizens in general.

What does the Strategic Compass involve?

The Compass covers all aspects of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CDSP), and is based on four pillars:

1. Act
2. Secure
3. Invest
4. Partner

1/ Act: This means strengthening the EU’s capacity for action in an increasingly brutal and unpredictable world

In order to be able to act rapidly to protect its security interests, the EU will:

• Establish between now and 2025 an EU Rapid Deployment Capacity of up to 5000 troops on all types of theatre, including in hostile environments;
• Be ready to deploy 200 fully equipped civilian CSDP mission experts within 30 days, including in complex environments;
• Conduct regular live exercises on land and at sea;
• Enhance military mobility;
• Reinforce civilian and military CSDP missions and operations by promoting a rapid and more flexible decision-making process, acting in a more robust way and ensuring greater financial solidarity;
• Strengthen the resources of its extrabudgetary instrument – the European Peace Facility – to support and equip its partners.

2/ Secure: This means strengthening the ability to protect common strategic spaces and defend the values, rules and principles that the EU upholds

In order to strengthen its ability to anticipate, deter and respond to current threats and challenges, and safeguard its interests, the EU commits to:

• Assert its role as a security provider in strategic common spaces (aerospace, maritime, cyber and aviation fields);
• Prepare an EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence. Work will begin under the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and it will be drafted by 2023;
• Enhance its role as a maritime security actor, based on an updating of the EU Maritime Security Strategy and by continuing the development of the Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) mechanism;
• Further develop the Cyber Diplomatic Toolbox and set up an EU Cyber Defence Policy to be better prepared for and respond to cyberattacks;
• Set up Hybrid Toolbox and Response Teams bringing together different instruments to detect and respond to a broad range of hybrid threats. In particular, a specific Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference toolbox will ultimately be integrated. EU rapid response teams could be deployed to assist Member States, CSDP missions and operations and partner countries in fighting hybrid threats;
• Boost its intelligence analysis capacities and protection of classified information.

3/ Invest: This involves enhancing technological sovereignty by improving defence capabilities

In keeping with the commitments made at the Versailles Summit, the EU plans to strengthen its capacity to invest and consolidate its Defence Technological and Industrial Base through comprehensive support to research, defence innovation and skills acquisition. The EU will fully meet the capability and operational needs of today and tomorrow.

4/ Partner: Strengthen the EU’s position as an international partner

To confront common threats and challenges, the EU will develop an effective partnerships policy and commits to:

• Strengthen cooperation with strategic partners such as NATO, the United Nations and regional partners, especially the OSCE, the AU and ASEAN;
• Develop more tailored bilateral partnerships with like-minded countries and strategic partners, such as the US, Canada, Norway, the UK, Japan and others;
• Develop tailored partnerships in the Western Balkans, our eastern and southern neighbourhood, Africa, the Indo-Pacific and Latin America, including through enhancing dialogue and cooperation, promoting participation in CSDP missions and operations and supporting capacity-building.

This first European white paper on security and defence sends a clear message: the EU is adapting its defence and security policy to address the return of competition between State powers and the persistence of crises in its neighbourhood and everywhere in the world where its action helps protect its security interests.

March 2022