About the Publication

Critical Raw Material Supply Matters and the Potential of the Circular Economy to Contribute to Security


This article written by André Månberger explores the potential for increased circularity of critical raw materials (CRM) to contribute to supply security and strengthen the EU’s autonomy, i.e. the Union’s capacity to act independently of other actors. The author discusses how the circular economy can be leveraged to increase EU strategic autonomy and the potential for conflicting policy goals this may bring.

Critical materials
Lithium battery for electric cars. Photo: Unsplash

Key messages

  • An increasing number of metals is classified as critical: 34 in the EU. Their consumption is of economic and societal importance for the health and energy sector, yet EU policies and strategies can influence what materials continue to be critical in the future.
  • To illustrate what critical raw metals are, the author discussed how lithium has become a critical metal due to the increased demand for producing lithium batteries for vehicles, and highlights that states are sensitive to disruption of metal supplies used for energy.
  • Even though the geologically extractable metals are sufficient for the energy transition, the transition must be coupled with recycling, as metal resources are finite. As such, the EU’s approach to circular economy focusing on recycling raw materials can safeguard the EU’s interests, yet the author discusses how the EU might develop other international dependencies as a result of importing secondary raw materials or not having the infrastructure required to process waste.


  • The potential of narrowing critical raw materials (CRM) resource loops seems to have the greatest impact on demand in the short to medium term, yet the EU does not currently have sufficient recycling infrastructure in place to recover the CRM from its waste flows.
  • Developing circular economy capacities could be done in cooperation with other countries or domestically, thus becoming more (inter)dependent or reducing exposure to import risk.
  • Reduced use of fossil energy enabled by enhanced circularity and energy transition is likely to have a greater impact on the EU’s security and autonomy than the increased use of critical materials.


Månberger, André. “Critical Raw Material Supply Matters and the Potential of the Circular Economy to Contribute to Security” Intereconomics, vol.58, no.2, 2023, pp.74-78. https://doi.org/10.2478/ie-2023-0016

Authors of this publication

André Månberger ,