European Union External Action

Security and Defence

A Strategic Compass for the EU

In an era of strategic competition and complex security threats, conflicts and sources of instability are multiplying in our neighbourhood and beyond. We are facing growing hybrid threats, cyber-attacks and foreign manipulation of information. Climate change is a growing threat-multiplier leading to further instability and crises. The high seas, outer space and the digital sphere are increasingly central to our prosperity and wellbeing, yet the rules that govern their access are increasingly contested.

In a world that is becoming more challenging to European interests and values, we need to unite and develop a common European answer. The Strategic Compass :

  • provides a shared assessment of our strategic environment, the threats and challenges we face and their implications for the EU.
  • brings greater coherence and a common sense of purpose to actions in the area of security and defence that are already underway.
  • sets out new ways and means to improve our collective ability to defend the security of our citizens and our Union.
  • sets clear targets and milestones to measure our progress.


Foreword by HR/VP Josep Borrell: A Strategic Compass to make Europe a Security Provider

Factsheet: A Strategic Compass for the EU

Q&A: Strategic Compass - Threat analysis


15/11/2021 - The European Union and its Member States face multiple threats and challenges that are rapidly evolving and increasing in magnitude and complexity. To tackle them, the EU has strengthened its work in the field of security and defence with a comprehensive set of defence initiatives implemented since 2017. As the global security environment deteriorates and new threats emerge, the EU now needs to step up its capacity and willingness to act.

15/11/2021 - In an era of increasing strategic competition between states and complex security threats, Europe’s security is at stake. The Strategic Compass provides answers for the EU to become a provider of security for its citizens, act faster and more decisively to protect our values and interests and contribute to international peace and security.

10/05/2021 - The Council today approved conclusions affirming its determination to move forward on implementing the EU's security and defence agenda, enabling the EU to take more responsibility for its own security.

20/11/2020 - As indicated by the Council in June 2020, the Strategic Compass will define policy orientations and specific goals and objectives in four clusters: (1) crisis management, (2) resilience, (3) capability development, and (4) partnerships. The Strategic Compass should set out a coherent approach across the security and defence domain and enhance the implementation of the EU’s level of ambition, notably responding to external crises, capacity building of partners and protection of the Union and its citizens.


18/11/2021 – HR/VP Blog – On 15 November, I presented the Strategic Compass to EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence. The initial exchanges showed widespread support for its central diagnosis – namely that Europe is in danger – and for the range of proposals on how to strengthen the EU’s role as a security provider. In the coming months, we will continue working with member states to agree the precise way forward. I will keep pushing for an ambitious and realistic approach, as our citizens expect.

12/11/2021 - Project Syndicate - The European Union is at risk of "strategic shrinkage," owing to geopolitical, economic, and ideological pressures from all sides. Safeguarding European citizens, interests, and values will require new thinking about the EU's security and defense responsibilities and the capacities it needs to fulfill them


12/11/2021 - High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell gave a group interview on the Strategic Compass, which will be discussed by EU foreign affairs and defence ministers next week.

10/10/2021 – HR/VP Blog – Major geopolitical shifts are taking place, which put into question Europe’s ability to defend its vision and interests. European leaders discussed last Tuesday how we should respond. To move forward, we must focus on action and not get stuck in abstract and divisive debates. The Strategic Compass that we are preparing and will present in November will set out a set of concrete steps in the area of security and defence.

06/09/2021 - HR/VP Blog – At the end of last week, we had two informal meetings in Slovenia, one with EU Defence Ministers and another with Foreign Ministers. Naturally, Afghanistan was at the top of our agenda, but we also discussed EU relations with China and the Indo-Pacific.

07/05/2021 – HR/VP Blog – It was fitting that we discussed with EU Defence Ministers concrete ways for the EU to do more, more efficiently and faster when a crisis strikes, only a week after my visit to the Sahel, where the EU is heavily engaged to respond to one of today’s most important security and governance crises.

28/02/2021 – HR/VP Blog – EU leaders have held a timely discussion on the future of EU security and defence. We need commitment at the highest political level to make the EU a stronger security actor in a world of fast-changing threats.


In the second episode of our mini-series on strategy, Florence Gaub has two guests: the pen-holder of the Strategic Compass, Jean-Pierre van Aubel, and Daniel Fiott, the Security and Defence editor of the EUISS. They discuss whether the Strategic Compass is, or is not, a strategy, how it is being put together, and why it is important for Europe.

The European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) is the Union’s agency dealing with the analysis of foreign, security and defence policy issues.

Commissioned by the Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Clingendael Institute delivers its contribution to the strategic dialogue on the Strategic Compass by focussing on defining more precisely the military level of ambition of the EU and what it implies for capability development and the relationship with NATO.

As Member States encounter increasingly complex security threats, momentum to push for EU initiatives to deliver on the Union's level of ambition in defence has emerged.

More on EU Security and Defence

The EU has identified and implemented concrete measures to strengthen the cooperation on security and defence through new structures and frameworks, enhanced oversight and coordination mechanisms as well as financing tools to trigger joint defence research and development.

Civilian Missions work for human security

The EU strengthens cooperation on security and defence (European Council website)

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