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Common Foreign and Security Policy

This article deals with the workings of European Union foreign policy. For the relations between the European Union and third countries, see Foreign relations of the European Union.

The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is the organised, agreed foreign policy of the European Union (EU). It operates as the second of the three pillars of the European Union as established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992. Decisions require unanimity among member states in the EU's Council.

The CFSP sees the NATO responsible for the territorial defence of Europe and "peace-making" while since 1999 the European Union is responsible for implementation missions, such as peace-keeping and policing of treaties etc.


Image:Pillars of the European Union.svg||thumb||The three pillars constituting the European Union (clickable) rect 3 41 54 170 European Community rect 65 42 115 170 Common Foreign and Security Policy rect 126 42 176 170 Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters Co-operation in international trade negotiations, under the Common Commercial Policy, dates back to the establishment of the Community in 1957. The CFSP itself has its origins in the formation of European Political Co-operation in 1970. European Political Co-operation was an informal consultation process between member states on foreign policy matters, with the aim of creating a common approach to foreign policy issues and promoting both the EU's own interests and those of the international community as a whole. This includes promoting international co-operation, respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The weaknesses evident in EPC, over for example the Yugoslav wars, led to a desire to strengthen foreign policy. The Maastricht Treaty, which entered into force in 1993, established the European Union. The previous supranational European Economic Community became one of three pillars, the second being the CFSP. The CFSP pillar is based on intergovernmentalism, meaning unanimity between members in the Council, with little input from the other institutions.

The Amsterdam Treaty created the office of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (currently held by Javier Solana) to co-ordinate and represent the EU's foreign policy.


According to the Treaty on European Union, Article 11, the European Union defines and implements a common foreign and security policy covering all areas of foreign and security policy, the objectives of which shall be:

  • to safeguard the common values, fundamental interests, independence and integrity of the Union in conformity with the principles of the United Nations Charter;
  • to strengthen the security of the Union in all ways;
  • to preserve peace and strengthen international security, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, as well as the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and the objectives of the Paris Charter, including those on external borders;
  • to promote international cooperation;
  • to develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.


Types of policy

The European Council defines the principles and general guidelines for the CFSP as well as common strategies to be implemented by the EU. On the basis of those guidelines the Council of Ministers adopts joint actions or common positions. Joint actions address specific situations where operation action by the EU is considered necessary and lay down the objectives, scope and means to be made available to the EU. They commit the member states. Common positions on the other hand, define the approach that the EU takes on a certain matter of geographical or thematic nature, and define in the abstract the general guidelines that the national policies of Member states must conform to.

High Representative

The High Representative, in conjunction with the current Presidency, speaks on behalf of the EU in agreed foreign policy matters and can have the task of articulating ambiguous policy positions created by disagreements among member states. The Common Foreign and Security Policy requires unanimity among the now 27 member states on the appropriate policy to follow on any particular policy. The unanimity and difficult issues treated under the CFSP means disagreements, such as those which occurred over the war in Iraq, are not uncommon.

He also coordinates the work of the European Union Special Representatives. The treaties indicate that the function of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy is exercised by the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers. The High Representative also serves as the head of the European Defence Agency, the Western European Union and exercises the same functions over the European Security and Defence Policy as the CFSP. The current High Representative for the CFSP is Javier Solana, who has held the post since 1999.


There are a number of bodies set up within the context of the CFSP. Within the Council, there is the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) configuration, essentially a meeting of foreign ministers and the Political and Security Committee or PSC, which monitors the international situation in the areas covered by the CFSP and contributes by delivering opinions to the Council of Ministers, either at its request or its own initiative, and also monitors the implementation of agreed policies.

The European Defence Agency (EDA) encourages increase in defence capabilities, military research and the establishment of a European internal market for military technology. Two bodies carried over from the Western European Union (see defence, below) are the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) and the European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC), which deal with defence theory and satellite imagery respectively.

Defence Policy

Since the Cologne European Council in 1999, the European Security and Defence Policy (or ESDP) has become a significant part of the CFSP. The EU itself has limited military capability, member states are responsible for their own territorial defence and a majority of EU members are also members of NATO which is responsible for the defence of Europe.

There is also the Western European Union (WEU), which is a European security organisation related to the EU. In 1992, the WEU's relationship with the EU was defined, when the EU assigned it the "Petersberg tasks" (humanitarian missions such as peacekeeping and crisis management). These tasks were later transferred from the WEU to the EU by the Amsterdam Treaty; they formed part of the new CFSP and the European Security and Defence Policy. Elements of the WEU are currently being merged into the EU's CFSP, and the President of the WEU is currently CFSP High Representative.

Following the Kosovo war in 1999, the European Council agreed that "the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and the readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises without prejudice to actions by NATO." To that end, a number of efforts were made to increase the EU's military capability, notably the Helsinki Headline Goal process. After much discussion, the most concrete result was the EU Battlegroups initiative, each of which is planned to be able to deploy quickly about 1500 men each. EU forces have been deployed on peacekeeping missions from Africa to the Balkans and the middle east. EU military operations are supported by a number of bodies, including the European Defence Agency, satellite centre and the military staff.

Political and Security Committee

The Political and Security Committee (PSC or "COPS" from its French acronym) first established as an interim body in 2000 is described by the Nice European Council Conclusions as the "linchpin" of the European Security and Defence Policy and the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Its responsibilities include the drafting of opinions for the General Affairs and External Relations Council which is one of the configurations of the Council of the European Union, and exercising "political control and strategic direction" of EU crisis-management operations. The committee is a standing body and is composed of national representatives of "senior / ambassadorial level" and meets at least twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays) in Brussels. It is chaired by the member state that holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Outside the CFSP

Besides its own foreign and security policy, the Commission is also gaining greater representation in international bodies. Representation in international bodies is primarily through the European Commissioner for External Relations, who works alongside the High Representative. In the UN the EU has gained influence in areas such as aid due to its large contributions in that field (see below). In the G8, the EU has the rights of membership besides that of chairing/hosting summit meetings. The EU is represented at the G8 by the presidents of the Commission and the Council. In the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where all 27 member states are represented, the EU as a body is represented by Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.

The influence of the EU is also felt through the enlargement. The potential benefits of becoming a member of the EU act as an incentive for both political and economic reform in states wishing to fulfil the EU's accession criteria, and are considered a major factor contributing to the reform and stabilisation of former Communist countries in Eastern Europe. This influence on the internal affairs of other countries is generally referred to as "soft power", as opposed to military "hard power".

The European Union's influential economic status and its nation-like characteristics has been acknowledged by the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in their publication, The World Factbook. The EU was included in the Factbook in December 2004. More often now third countries are seeing the Union as either a potential superpower or a present one with its challenges to the United States and this is shaping the attitudes of, and attitudes towards, Europe.

Humanitarian aid

The European Community humanitarian aid office, or "ECHO", provides humanitarian aid from the EU to developing countries. In 2006 its budget amounted to 671 million euro, 48% of which went to the ACP countries. Counting the EU's own contributions and those of its member states together, the EU is the largest aid donor in the world.

The EU's aid has previously been criticised by the think-tank Open Europe for being inefficient, mis-targeted and linked to economic objectives. Furthermore, some charities have claimed European governments have inflated the amount they have spent on aid by incorrectly including money spent on debt relief, foreign students, and refugees. Under the de-inflated figures, the EU did not reach its internal aid target in 2006 and the EU would not reach the international target of 0.7% of GNP until 2015. However only a few countries have reached that target. In 2005 EU aid was 0.34% of the GNP which was higher than that of the United States and Japan. The current commissioner for aid, Louis Michel, has called for aid to be delivered more rapidly, to greater effect, and on humanitarian principles.


Although the Irish were reassured of their neutrality before agreeing to the Nice Treaty, Finnish Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen, on 5 July 2006 while speaking to the European Parliament as Council President;
Mr Pflüger described Finland as neutral. I must correct him on that: Finland is a member of the EU. We were at one time a politically neutral country, during the time of the Iron Curtain. Now we are a member of the Union, part of this community of values, which has a common policy and, moreover, a common foreign policy.


Under the Lisbon Treaty, the position of High Representative would be merged with the post of European Commissioner for External Relations, becoming a Vice-President of the European Commission. The post would be renamed "High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy". The pillar system would also be dropped. The foreign policy of the European Union would however remain intergovernmental and subject to unanimity in the European Council and the Council of Ministers.

See also


Defence and military






European foreign policy - from rhetoric to reality ? by Dieter Mahncke (ed.), Peter Lang, November 3 2004 - ISBN 90-5201-247-4
Keukeleire, S., & MacNaughtan, J. (2008). The Foreign Policy of the European Union. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.- ISBN 978-1-4039-4722-2
Orbie, J. (2008), Europe's Global Role: External Policies of the European Union. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Hill, C., & Smith, M. (Eds.) (2005) International Relations and the European Union. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bretherton, C., & Vogler, J. (2006) The European Union as a Global Actor. London: Routledge.

External links

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