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Common Foreign and Security Policy


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Policy areas covered by the second of the three pillars of the European Union (EU), established by the Maastricht Treaty of 1992. (The Lisbon Treaty sought to collapse the three‐pillar structure but this will not, in itself, have a major impact on decision‐making on CFSP matters.) The EU member states which called for the creation of a CFSP aimed to reinforce existing intergovernmental cooperation on foreign policy carried out in the context of European Political Cooperation, in place since the early 1970s. In particular, the German government sought to introduce a stronger supranational element to CFSP policy‐making but met strong French and British resistance, although there was general agreement that reforms were necessary. CFSP introduced two new decision‐making instruments to the EU: common positions to establish cooperation on a day‐to‐day basis and joint actions to allow Member States to act together on the basis of Council decisions as to the specific scope, objectives, duration, and means of such actions, and procedures for carrying them out. Council decisions were based on unanimity but specific joint actions (in areas agreed upon) could be based on Qualified Majority Voting (QMV).

The CFSP has enjoyed only qualified success. More frequently, EU member states have failed to reach agreement on coordinated policy stances and joint actions. The use of QMV to implement joint actions has been avoided due to the sensitive and frequently controversial nature of interventions and the preference for unanimity. There were also problems establishing and operating the CFSP unit in the Council secretariat, the body of national foreign policy officials responsible for improving coordination. The Amsterdam Treaty of 1997 included an attempt to resolve these difficulties with the creation of the Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit, the lack of which was seen as one of the main weaknesses of CFSP. The reluctance of member states to share sensitive information has limited the effectiveness of this unit and the EU member states continue to rely upon NATO security information.

The Amsterdam Treaty also created the position of EU High Representative on Foreign and Security Policy attached to the Council secretariat. The aim was to give the CFSP a higher profile and to contribute to the formulation and implementation of policy. Javier Solana, the former head of NATO, was appointed as the first High Representative in 1998. In post for two terms, he had only marginal success in asserting his leadership role in relation to successive Council presidents. The creation of EU foreign minister is one of the institutional innovations of the non‐ratified Constitutional Treaty of 2004, with the less controversial label of High Representative restored in the Lisbon Treaty of 2007. The new High Representative will serve for two and a half years and will sit astride both the Council and the Commission, replacing the EU External Affairs Commissioner. The reform is designed to increase the coherence of EU foreign policy making and the visibility of the EU as an international actor.

Humanitarian missions, peacekeeping operations, policing, and evacuation of expatriates (labelled the Petersberg Tasks) were incorporated into the EU by the Amsterdam Treaty and supplemented by the more aggressive peacemaking operations. The Lisbon Treaty of 2007 proposed a range of additional military operations in which the EU can engage. The establishment of a European Rapid Reaction Force (ERRF) was agreed in 1999, with participating member states contributing specialized troops and equipment in order to give the EU the capability of carrying out the Petersberg Tasks. Eight years later the ERRF was not yet operational. The Nice Treaty (2001) brought the Western European Union (WEU) into the CFSP and created a Common European Security and Defence Policy (CESDP). This is a misnomer as joint defence—although established as a goal of the EU—was the one element of the WEU which the British refused to allow to be incorporated. Reflecting ongoing French and German efforts to reinforce the CESDP, the Lisbon Treaty includes a Collective Defence provision which allows those member states wishing to reach agreements in this area to do so and to use EU institutions, without obligating the participation of other member states. The solidarity clause in the Lisbon Treaty requires member states to provide mutual assistance in the event that one suffers a terrorist attack and allows them to provide military assistance.

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Subjects: Politics.


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