Ambiguous alliance: Neutrality, opt-outs, and European defence

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Publication Date June 2021
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  • EU member states that are neutral or militarily non-aligned, or that have an opt-out from common defence, are often overlooked in discussions about European defence.
  • The existence of these special status states not only creates uncertainty about the EU’s ambitions to become a fully fledged defence union but also calls into question the functionality of the mutual defence clause, Article 42.7, in the long run.
  • The special status states fall into three groups according to the challenges they pose to the EU: the non-aligned in name only (Finland and Sweden); the odd one out (Denmark); and the strategic schnorrers (Austria, Ireland, and Malta).
  • The EU’s work on its Strategic Compass should include debates on the special status states’ future role in European defence, as well as discussions on the operationalisation of the union’s mutual defence clause.
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