Measured Response: How to Design a European Instrument Against Economic Coercion



Jonathan Hackenbroich, Pawel Zerka | European Council on Foreign Relations

It used to be the case that the European Union had no options available to it when confronted with other global players’ use of economic coercion against it. This coercion would gravely violate either European or national sovereignty. But, now, Europe has an option available to it strengthen itself against economic coercion. The European Commission is currently in the process of designing an anti-coercion instrument (ACI), which would allow Europe to take countermeasures against third-country coercion and act as a deterrent against coercive practices (similar to the option of a collective defence instrument that the European Council on Foreign Relations analysed last year). The Commission is set to propose the ACI this autumn as part of its Open Strategic Autonomy trade strategy. Member states will then decide whether they would like to establish the deterrent.

But what should the ACI look like? What is the specific gap in the EU’s defences that it would fill? What forms of economic coercion could trigger EU countermeasures? And what sort of countermeasures should it use? How would the EU decide whether to impose them? Critically, could the EU really ensure that the ACI would strengthen its position, given the significant risks involved?

There appears to be an avenue for designing an ACI that would answer these questions, and would ensure the EU became less vulnerable to economic coercion. But it is a daunting task. This report proposes several ideas for how the EU can approach this challenge. It indicates which ideas might be most feasible and effective. It is based on the work of ECFR’s Task Force for Strengthening Europe against Economic Coercion, which brings together high-level representatives from six EU member state governments and the private sector.


To read the full policy brief from the European Council on Foreign Relations, please click here.