Ideas and Reflections on a Common European Foreign Policy. Conceptual Basics, Procedures and Characteristics

Essay, 2022

26 Pages



1 Introduction

2 Conceptualizing EU Foreign Policy
2.1 Characteristics and Ideas on an EU Foreign Policy
2.2 The EU's Foreign-Policy Powers and Instruments
2.3 The EU's Foreign-Policy Goals and Activities
2.4 The EU's Foreign-Policy Priorities

3 Theoretical Reflections on an EU Foreign Policy
3.1 The Realistic Context of EU Foreign Policy
3.2 The Institutional Context of EU Foreign Policy
3.3 Further Theoretical Concepts of EU Foreign Policy

4 Further Discussion and Conclusions
4.1 Outlook: Prospects for the EU as a Global Actor in a Changing
4.2 Conclusion

11 Bibliography

List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1 Introduction

What is conceptually „the EU`s foreign-policy“? What are the procedural characteristics of a common European foreign and security policy? What is the role of the European Union (EU) as a global player in a changing world order system? The present work focuses on the analysis of these central aspects. To better understand the complex interrelationships of the subject, it is initially necessary to take a brief look at the characteristics and conceptual structure of the EU system.

First, it should be emphasized that the process of European integration is indeed unique and that this organizational form of the EU is difficult to grasp. In its approximately 70-year history, in addition to the goal of economic integration, the EU has characteristically always pursued the goal of expanding geographically on the one hand and deepening its legal and institutional status parallel to political events and developments on the other hand. Accordingly, the EU has continuously redesigned its foreign policy.

Second, it should be articulated that the EU is a European project, namely an association of states. It has its own competencies and resources to act. The EU system is based on supranational integration, intergovernmental cooperation, and international cooperation in a multilateral world order system. The common European foreign policy includes both individual actions, decisions, and concepts as well as an overarching pattern of relationships that form the basis of an almost mature overall strategy.

Next, it can be observed that since the end of the Cold War, the EU has gradually developed its external relations and foreign policy and has become a global player in international affairs and world politics. In the last decade, the interregionalism and multilateralism have become a key element of the external relations and foreign policy of the EU's multi-level system. In fact, the Union has quickly become the center of many interregional cooperation agreements and relationships with many regions around the world in a global framework. Promoting regional and interregional relations not only justifies and strengthens the EU's own existence and effectiveness as a global actor. The strategy also promotes the legitimacy and status of other regions and leads to a deepening of cross-sectoral interregional trade and economic ties, political dialogue, development cooperation, cultural ties, and security cooperation.

Today, the EU is a political and economic union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe and act sovereign. Its catalog of objectives primarily includes maintaining stability and collective security in Europe, as well as the principles of the UN Charter and international law (Art. 2, 3 TEU). In this context, it can be said that the EU has structural elements of democracy and the rule of law, but it is still discussed again and again how the EU system is democratically legitimized. This also applies to the foreign policy and external relations of the European project, the finality of which is unconscious.

In the light of this introduction, the following key questions will be discussed and evaluated:

- What a common European foreign policy is, and how it is to be characterized,
- how the EU's foreign policy is structured, and what it is based on,
- what foreign policy powers and instruments the EU has,
- what the goals, visions, and mission of an EU's foreign policy are,
- on which theoretical concepts the EU's foreign policy is based,
- what role the EU plays as a global player in world politics.

This essay analyzes the role of the EU as a global actor, and focuses on the origins, causes, and strength (or absence) of the EU's foreign policy in its external relations with major regions of the world.

2 Conceptualizing EU Foreign Policy

States have foreign policy, while international organizations coordinate national positions. National defense and the mobilization of national defense resources require centralized command and control. Concepts of national security and interests justify strong state authority. It is therefore not surprising that even the most federalist supporters of European integration find the EU's foreign and security policy particularly difficult.1 EU foreign policy can be described as a multidimensional mosaic of different interests.2

At the beginning of the 21st century, the basic structure of international relations has changed significantly.3 In the new era of globalization, international affairs are characterized by a multitude of state and non-state actors, ranging from the local to the global level.4 These actors are confronted with ongoing crises and conflicts, as well as resistance around the world. Never has the United Nations had to face so many internal conflicts. One of these significant actors on the international stage is undoubtedly the European Union with a global political power potential, which on the one hand is ascribed global influence and on the other hand repeatedly comes up against the limits of its capacity.5

This shows that the EU is becoming increasingly important in the international system. Despite global crises and conflicts, the EU strives to become more attractive and influential, not only on a domestic level but also on a global level. A united Europe in the globalized world order of postmodernism now wants to be an international actor, namely a world economic power. In this context, the EU is also increasingly acting as a foreign policy actor in the system of international relations.6

The EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) was established with the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 and has since been strengthened by subsequent treaties.7 Today, it plays an increasing role in the European foreign policy-making of the EU system. This increases the EU's external weight at international level. This is discussed in further detail below.

2.1 Characteristics and Ideas on an EU Foreign Policy

Economically a giant, politically a dwarf and – what is even worse – militarily a worm!8 Who does not know this prominent characterization of Europe, especially since the end of the East-West conflict in the early 1990s, when it comes to the European question and the question of the role of the EU in international relations?

What is meant here is nothing more than the discrepancy noted by many EU critics between the economic weight of the Union on the one hand and its lack of effectiveness in foreign, security and defense policy as well as international politics on the other. In other words, what is meant is the nature of EU foreign policy.9 Since then, however, the development of the community has made relatively great progress in the areas mentioned, which may seem surprising at first glance, since these strategic policy areas represent a special sensitivity of the national sovereignty of the EU member states.10 But Europe's common foreign and security policy is now more topical and intensive than ever before. The EU is now gradually acting as a foreign policy actor.11

At this point, it should be noted that the label “European foreign policy” or the popular use of the term “EU foreign policy” in the academic literature are relatively recent research terms, while the roots of the term “Europe” itself go back to antiquity. Until the early 1990s, it was more a question of the foreign policies of the EU member states, which in total should result in something like a European foreign policy when it came to the external relations of the European Community. Only with the establishment of the CFSP with the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 did the awareness of a collective European foreign policy figure in international politics. The CFSP should define and monitor foreign policy paths based on the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty, also known as the EU Treaty.12

After the dissolution of the three-pillar structure by the Lisbon Treaty, only foreign policy remained as the only policy area of the EU that was not regulated in the FEU Treaty (TFEU) but in the EU Treaty (TEU).13 European foreign policy continues to be regarded as a purely intergovernmental decision-making process, while the EU's domestic or economic policies are exercised supranationally and have been incorporated into the FEU Treaty.14 Title V is the largest section of the EU Treaty and contains the provisions governing the EU's foreign policy. It lays down general principles and guidelines, in particular principles such as democracy, respect for human rights and dignity, equal rights, international law, and the principles of the UN Charter, which the Union's external action must be based on (art. 21-46 TEU).15 The aim is to achieve effective multilateralism in the field of foreign policy.16

2.2 The EU's Foreign-Policy Powers and Instruments

Today, alongside the USA, Russia and China, the EU is increasingly playing a role in foreign policy as a major power in the world.17 The common foreign, security and defense policy is designed for conflict resolution and international consensus.18 It is based primarily on diplomacy and respect for international rules. Trade, humanitarian aid and development cooperation also play an important role in the EU's external relations.19 The European External Action Service (EEAS) acts as the diplomatic service of the European Union. A network of over 140 delegations and offices around the world promotes and protects EU values and interests.20

The principle of coherence obliges the various foreign policy actors in the community to coordinate with one another (art. 21 TEU).21 The European Council is defined as the significant decision-making body for strategic interests, goals, and values (art. 22 TEU). The procedures of the CFSP (art. 22 ff. TEU) including the GSVP (art. 42 ff. TEU) are formulated in detail.22 In addition, article 47 TEU states that only the EU has international legal personality. This means that the Union can conclude international agreements with third countries and international organizations, be held liable for violations of international law and have international redress against other subjects of international law who have violated their rights.23

Another point to note is that the EU has a collective actor quality in terms of foreign policy.24 The EU's foreign policy is very comprehensive both relationally and structurally, although it is still a young policy field within the community.25 The common European foreign policy engagement cannot be reduced to the territorial or institutional framework of the EU. It includes both individual actions, decisions, and concepts as well as an overarching pattern of relationships that underlies a mature overall strategy.26 Thus, the EU foreign policy includes different organizations and actors, and even within the CFSP structure, the individual EU states always try to pursue their national foreign policies in parallel.27

In addition, the EU borders are neither territorially nor analytically clearly defined in terms of demarcation between internal and external affairs. The constant expansion process since the beginning of the 1970s has never allowed this situation to appear as a permanently distinguishable unit compared to the EC/EU accession candidates. The enormous expansion dynamic after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, the far-reaching changes and the political paradigm shift in Europe aggravated this phenomenon and with it the open external dimension of the integration process considerably.28 Ultimately, this increasingly gave rise to the idea of a Europe-wide common foreign and security policy ( collective security ).29

It can be said that the end of Moscow and Washington, D.C. certain foreign policy dichotomy left room for the EU states to adopt their own common European approach. Nevertheless, the noble interests, principles, and intentions could not rule out a far-reaching failure of EU foreign and security policy in the context of the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Here the EU states had to recognize their powerlessness and inability to act on their own continent and ask the USA for help to get the chestnuts out of the fire for the Europeans on their own doorstep.30 It is obvious that for a long time the EU was neither able to avoid inhumane, undignified aggression nor to develop a corresponding strategy in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Nevertheless, the expectation is high, both inside and outside.

Today, the European Parliament (EP) scrutinizes the CFSP and contributes to its development, by supporting the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU Special Representatives (EUSRs) and the EU delegations. Parliament’s budgetary powers shape the scale and scope of the CFSP, as well as the EU financial instruments that sustain the EU’s foreign activities.31


1 Giegerich (2015), p. 437.

2 Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet/Rüger (2015), p. 7.

3 Barker (2000), p. 70.

4 Bekmezci (2021), p. 50.

5 Algieri (2008), S. 455.

6 Lenschow (2015), p. 339.

7 Smith (2014), p. 5.

8 Androsch, H.: Ohne Europa keine Zukunft, PDF, p. 3 ff.: [14.02.2022].

9 Keukeleire/Delreux (2014), p. 11.

10 Friis/Juncos (2019), p. 281 ff.

11 Lorz/Meurers (2014), § 2, margin no. 6 ff. (p. 107).

12 European Union. Foreign & Security Policy: [14.02.2022].

13 Von der Groeben/Schwarze/Hatje (2015), p. 999, margin no. 1.

14 Schulze/Zuleeg/Kadelbach (2015), § 2, margin no. 3 (p. 86).

15 Streinz (2012), p. 3 ff.

16 Koutrakos (2015), p. 273.

17 Zumach, Andreas, „Vierte Großmacht EU?“, in: Planet Wissen:


18 MacCormick (2020), p. 431 ff.

19 MacCormick (2020), p. 437 ff.

20 EU in the World, Regions and Regional Policies, in: EU External Action Service: [15.02.2022].

21 Karczorowska (2013), p. 200.

22 European Union Law: EU Treaties, in: Illinois College of Law Library: [15.02.2022].

23 Kaczorowska (2013), p. 196.

24 Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet/Rüger (2015), p. 6.

25 Keukeleire/Delreux (2014), p. 27.

26 Frank (2016), p. 15.

27 Fröhlich (2014), p. 20.

28 Das Ende des Eisernen Vorhangs, in: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (bpb) (25.06.2009): [16.02.2022].

29 Ehrhart (2016), p. 81.

30 Bekmezci (2021), p. 55.

31 Foreign policy: aims, instruments and achievements, in: European Parliament:


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Ideas and Reflections on a Common European Foreign Policy. Conceptual Basics, Procedures and Characteristics
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EU foreign policy, common European foreign policy, EU external relations, theories of European foreign policy, concepts EU foreign policy, reflections and ideas on EU foreign policy
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Ibrahim Bekmezci (Author), 2022, Ideas and Reflections on a Common European Foreign Policy. Conceptual Basics, Procedures and Characteristics, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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