European sovereignty is not about building fences or retreating from the world stage; nor should it stand in opposition to national sovereignty. Instead, it is about boosting the European Union’s capacity to manage the complex interdependencies that characterise today’s world. In the emerging global order, Europe needs to act according to its principles and values without being bullied by others. This requires both greater capabilities of its own and reliable alliances; openness and resilience; and some strategic protections but without drifting towards protectionism. For the EU to succeed, all member states will need to contribute their fair share – and it cannot afford weak links that other powers could use to divide them.

This index scores EU member states on their contribution to European sovereignty on six terrains: climate, defence, economy, health, migration, and technology. It covers their capabilities and commitments in these areas separately. The analysis is not limited to contributions within the framework of the EU, but also includes other initiatives that allow Europeans to work together to enhance Europeans’ capacity to act. The index draws on the scores of the 27 member states to produce an overall score for the EU on the six terrains. It also places the countries in four groups that reflect their varying roles in the EU’s efforts to build European sovereignty.

The index is designed to help the union identify its main strengths and weaknesses. The EU’s scores are mixed:

  • European sovereignty is ‘good’ in health and economy – but only ‘satisfactory’ in defence, climate, and migration, and ‘poor’ in technology. In no area is European sovereignty either ‘excellent’ or ‘failing’.
  • In technology, climate, and defence, the EU is doing much better on commitments than on capabilities. This appears to show that, while the union has the will to act, it lacks the resources to do so. But it could also signify that Europeans are not putting their money where their mouth is.
  • The spread – the difference between the best- and worst-performing countries – is highest in defence. This shows that some countries are close to fulfilling their potential in contributing to European defence sovereignty, while others are failing terribly. The spread is lowest in migration: an area in which almost every country receives a ‘satisfactory’ or ‘poor’ grade – meaning that they are collectively responsible for the EU’s mediocre score in that field.
  • While five countries take on the role of ‘leaders’ of European sovereignty, more than twice as many are ‘underperformers’. In total, only eight countries receive a ‘good’ score on average – while two are ‘failing’ not just in specific terrains but also in their average score.

There are two complementary ways of exploring the results of the index:

  • One can look at country groups and profiles, and the ranking to see how EU member states compare to one another – and the main strengths and weaknesses of each.
  • One can also look at the analysis of specific terrains to understand how the 27 EU members are doing on climate, defence, economy, health, migration, or technology – and to explore the differences between their contributions to European sovereignty in these areas.

The authors of this index believe that the EU can both overcome the new challenges it faces and shape the global order. To achieve this, EU member states will need to steadily expand their joint capacity to act. The best way to adjust to this new era is to build European sovereignty.


The European Sovereignty Index assesses each EU member state’s contribution to European sovereignty on six terrains: climate, defence, economy, health, migration, and technology.

This involves the following steps:

  1. On each terrain, the index identifies two cases that are the focus of analysis. For example, in economy, these are trade and investment.
  2. For each case, the index identifies the indicators used for the evaluation, separating capabilities and commitments. To create these indicators, the index uses both primary sources (input from our 27 national associate researchers) and secondary sources (such as public opinion data, official statistics, and other rankings). The full list of sources used in this study is provided below in each terrain essay.
  3. The index normalises scores for each indicator so that they fit into its grading system: <0-4) = failing; <4-5) = poor; <5-6) = satisfactory; <6-8) = good; <8-10> = excellent. This often involves recalculating indicators based on each member state’s population size, so that they better reflect the extent to which countries fulfil their potential in their contribution to European sovereignty. You can see the scores for each case in this Excel spreadsheet (XLSX).
  4. For each case, the index applies a weighted average to produce a score for a country’s capabilities, commitments, and overall performance.

The index combines the scores of the 27 member states to produce an overall score for the EU on the six terrains, weighting countries based on their population in a manner that follows the EU’s approach to qualified majority voting.

The index also identifies four groups of countries based on their roles in the EU’s efforts to build European sovereignty. The assignment of countries into different groups is based on the following criteria:

  • ‘Leaders’ include countries that receive a score of at least 8.0 at least once, or at least 6.4 on average.
  • ‘Strivers’ include countries that score relatively highly in all areas – and 6.0 or more at least three times.
  • ‘One-hit wonders’ include countries with middling scores – and one or two areas in which they are doing particularly well (at least 6.0).
  • ‘Underperformers’ include the poorest performers and those that are mediocre overall and do not excel in any area.


Above all, the authors would like to thank ECFR’s associate researchers, whose work is the foundation of the European Sovereignty Index. These researchers are: Isabella Antinozzi, Adam Balcer, Vladimír Bartovic, Karlis Bukovskis, Robin-Ivan Capar, Lívia Franco, Vincent Gabriel, Andrew Gilmore, Jule Könneke, Marin Lessenski, Tara Lipovina, Marko Lovec, Daniel Mainwaring, Justinas Mickus, Matej Navrátil, Christine Nissen, Luka Orešković, Aleksandra Palkova, Ylva Pettersson, Oana Popescu-Zamfir, Astrid Portero, Martin Quencez, Oz Russell, Mathilda Salo, Marco Saracco, Sofia Maria Satanakis, Hüseyin Silman, Cassiopée Thuin, George Tzogopoulos, Viljar Veebel, Zsuzsanna Végh, Gesine Weber, and Niels van Willigen.

Juan Ruitiña led the user experience design and development for the index. Chris Eichberger served as creative director. He also taught the authors how to run the most pleasant yet efficient meetings. Marlene Riedel masterfully orchestrated the communications strategy. The authors would also like to thank Swantje Green and Andreas Bock for their tremendous help in optimising the impact of the index.

Jenny Söderström deserves the deepest gratitude for expertly herding the cats (the authors). The authors are also grateful for Mick Jonkers’ support on background research and country profiles.

Mark Leonard and Jeremy Shapiro have been spearheading ECFR’s work on European sovereignty for years. The authors are immensely thankful for their intellectual leadership and guidance throughout this project.

They would like to thank ECFR’s partners at Stiftung Mercator, especially Anne Duncker and Teresa Spancken. Their enduring support for ECFR and the Re:shape Global Europe team made the creation of the index possible.

Finally, Rafael Loss would like to thank the Red Hot Chili Peppers for their Unlimited Love during weeks of intense data-crunching.