Some dismiss the recent EU Global Strategy as a “triumph of hope over experience”, an impracticable and therefore ultimately irrelevant statement; others are enthusiastic about what they see as perseverance and renewed ambition in the face of the present crisis. Although the 2016 Strategy appears more modest than its 2003 predecessor in operational terms, the range of deliberations that fed into it and the quality of the document itself demonstrate a greater maturity of reflection on foreign policy. A critical reading of the document shows that concepts such as normative power and differentiated inclusion of neighbours in the EU’s system of governance have all but disappeared. The emerging EU identity appears to be debilitated by the centrifugal processes of internal contestation and a drastically downsized claim for external power projection. An alternative plan for action will have to deal with the Union’s vulnerabilities and carve out a role that is distinct, yet in line with this new self-understanding.