This article re-examines the EU's character and potential as a strategic actor, setting that analysis in the context of the debate on strategic culture. The definition of strategic culture as the political and institutional confidence and processes to manage and deploy military force, coupled with external recognition of the EU as a legitimate actor in the military sphere, lends itself to a reappraisal around four core questions. First, military capabilities: establishing a European strategic culture is vital in order to rationalize the acquisition of capabilities necessary for the range of humanitarian and peacekeeping tasks envisaged. Equally, without military capabilities, all talk of a strategic culture would ring hollow. This article discusses how much closer the EU has come to acquiring those essential capabilities. Second, while the EU has gained significant experience of, albeit limited, military/policing experiences and established a growing reputation and some credibility for ad hoc action, to what extent and in what quarters have these experiences engendered a sense of reliability and legitimacy for autonomous EU action? Third, given that so far operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Balkans have depended on an integrated civil–military effort, do the policy-making processes of the EU now ensure the appropriate level and depth of civil–military integration? Finally, considering that EU operations have been limited in time and scope, and that much of the EU's work in the Balkans has depended upon cooperation with NATO, what can be said of the evolving relationship between the EU and NATO?