Strategic autonomy for the European Union would allow the European Union to protect itself from extraterritorial sanctions it disagrees with, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has said.
“What I want to put on the table, and I think we have to continue working on, is how to ensure that we will not go under dangerous dependencies, and how do we ensure our capacity to face things that we don’t agree with. For example, the extraterritorial sanctions imposed by some states that affect negatively our firms. We refuse, we don’t accept this kind of extraterritoriality, but in practical terms it has effects. If we don’t accept, we should be able to resist it. This is part of autonomy. Let’s talk about autonomy as lack of dependency,” Borrell said, speaking at a press conference following a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.
Emphasizing that the concept of strategic autonomy was “not directed against anyone,” Borrell suggested that it was about “choosing our interdependency instead of having it imposed on us…We must be able to act multilaterally when we can, but also be able to act autonomously when we must in order to promote and defend more effectively our interests and values.”
Borrell’s remarks come just days after the European Commission’s move to condemn US plans to expand sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. In a statement on the matter on Friday, an EU spokesperson described such extraterritorial sanctions as a violation of international law, and said the bloc would seek to discuss the matter with the incoming Biden administration to resolve the issue.
Last Thursday, US lawmakers finalized the 2021 National Defence Authorization Act, a massive $740 billion defence spending package which also includes new sanctions against Nord Stream 2. Moscow slammed the sanctions as a “manifestation of unfair competition.”
The EU has been impacted by US extraterritorial sanctions policy a number of times in recent years. For example, after Washington unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, the deal's European signatories initially attempted to save the landmark agreement by creating a mechanism to shield Iran from US sanctions. However, in May 2019, Iran announced that it would scrap some of its voluntary commitments under the nuclear deal, citing the European powers' failure to protect against US pressure, and a reduction in earnings from trade with the bloc due to the threat of US secondary sanctions.