Obstacles to a common European Foreign Policy. A Case Study on the 2011 Intervention in Libya

Term Paper, 2014

13 Pages, Grade: 1,6


Table of Contents

A. Introduction

B. Main Part
I. Historical Overview of EU foreign policy
1. The first steps toward a common foreign policy
2. After the Treaty of Maastricht (1993-1997)
3. After the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997-2009)
4. After the Treaty of Lisbon (2009 - today)
II. The case study: The intervention in Libya
1. The intervention's history
2. The EU's behavior in the Libya intervention
a. France
b. United Kingdom
c. Germany
III. Obstacles to a common foreign policy
1. Domestic differences
2. Deficits in the European institutional framework

C. Conclusion


A. Introduction

Since the end of the Cold War the EU has found itself in a position that ask for a redefinition of European foreign policy. The EU can no longer comfortably rely on US-American leadership in foreign and especially security policy. While the world is becoming increasingly multipolar with the rise of states such as China, India and Brazil the EU itself must also find a new role in this global system.

With a population of 500 million and a GDP comparable to that of the USA, as well as high shares in world exports and imports the EU finds itself in relative close neighborhood to some more unstable regions. Additionally the EU's history has shown that the members of the Eu often face difficulties agreeing on common position and presenting themselves as the close unified community the EU aims to be.

The EU's position as a global actor may be threatened in the future if it can not agree on a common foreign policy. “While Europe’s position remains enviable compared with other parts of the world, its overall weight on the global scales is diminishing, and the ability of European countries—even the bigger ones—to remain relevant players in their own right will inevitably decline” (Lehne 2013). Even though the need for a common foreign policy seems to be so obvious the EU still has a long way to go to a truly unified foreign policy.

This paper aims to offer some insight into the problems that the EU's members have with harmonizing their foreign policies. I intend to use the example of the 2011 Libya intervention in order to show some of the typical problems that appear with European foreign policy coordination.

B. Main Part

I. Historical Overview of EU foreign policy

The first part aims to give a brief overview about the history of the EU's foreign policy, and how it has changed during the last decades.

1. The first steps toward a common foreign policy.

Initially the idea of a common European foreign policy was met with some resistance from different sides. When the treaty for a European Defence Community (EDC), that would have established a common European army, was rejected by the French National Assembly in 1954 it also caused the failure of the European Political Community (EPC), that would have been able “to carry out foreign policy activities but only with the agreement of the member states of the EDC” (Smith 2002, p. 44).

The 1960s saw a new wave of attempts to coordinate European Foreign Policy, mainly driven by French desires to “establish a political authority that would institutionalise political and foreign policy cooperation between West European states” (Smith 2002, p. 48). The proposed Fouchet Plan failed however, mostly due to Dutch resistance. The Six could only conclude that “foreign policy cooperation would take place when 'experience and circumstances' were propitious” (Smith 2002, p. 51).

The summit meeting in The Hague in December 1969 caused a “ 'relaunch' of European integration” (Wallace/Wallace 2000, p. 464). This resulted in the Luxembourg Report in 1970, creating the European political Cooperation (EPC), “the first successful attempt at foreign policy cooperation by the member states of the European Community”(Smith 2002, p. 68). The EPC would stay the main instrument for foreign policy coordination, until the events around the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the reunification of Germany forced the European Union to advance their foreign policy coordination with the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993.

2. After the Treaty of Maastricht (1993-1997)

The Treaty on European Union had the aim to allow the European Community to “become an effective international actor” (Smith 2002, p. 94). The treaty proudly states: “A common foreign and security policy is hereby established“ (Maastricht Treaty 1992, Article J). This was achieved by establishing a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), thought to be an “intergovernmental pillar” (Wallace/Wallace 2000, p. 473) in the three pillars the newly founded European Union was based on. The CFSP marked a turning point in European foreign policy in so far, as that the members were finally ready to admit “that the EC/EU was capable of carrying out a common foreign policy” (Smith 2002, p. 97). It also made great progress from the relatively inefficient EPC, since the member states were obligated to “ 'ensure' conformity in their national positions” (Smith 2002, p. 97). This first enabled the EU to actually be an actor in questions of foreign policy.

The first test for the CFSP came during the civil war in the former soviet republic of Yugoslavia. The crisis showed that the EU was still very dependent on the USA and NATO, since the Western European Union established under the CFSP “lacked the command and control structures required to mount the complex intervention needed in Croatia and Bosnia” (Wallace/Wallace 2000, p. 477). Additionally the aim of coordinating European Foreign Policy suffered due to “hesitant and incoherent west European policies”(Wallace/Wallace 2000, p. 479). The crisis showed that even under the CFSP the EU still had a long way to go in order to achieve a truly unified foreign policy.

Additional obstacles to a truly common foreign policy could be found in the “geographical diversity”(Wallace/Wallace 2000, p. 481) of the member states (f.e. Germany's relation to Turkey or France's relation to Algeria, and “issues of national identity and statehood” (Wallace/Wallace 2000, p. 481) (f.e. British and French military tradition and pride).

3. After the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997-2009)

Said problems with the CFSP eventually resulted in the Treaty of Amsterdam, that “consolidated CFSP procedures” (Smith 2002, p. 101). It is however important to understand that the treaty did not intend to perform a radical reshaping of European Foreign Policy bur rather was intended to build upon the existing framework of the CFSP.

Most changes from the Amsterdam treaty thus focused on improving the institutional environment of the CFSP, thus allowing it to work more efficiently. “Major innovations […] were in the creation of a Policy and Planning unit for the CFSP, the creation of a secretary- general within the Council Secretariat to deal with CFSP, the transformation of troika and the clarification of CFSP instruments. “(Smith 2002, p. 101).

The treaty however can be considered as a final point in the first establishment of a common European foreign policy. “A common foreign and security policy had been developed for the new European Union and institutionalised within international legislation” (Smith 2002, p. 103).

The newly institutionalised foreign policy did not prevent the EU from having difficulties in organizing a common foreign policy. As could be seen be the Iraq War in 2002. While some EU members such as the United Kingdom openly sided with the USA, pledging military support for the war, other members such as Germany and France openly opposed the war and denied any military support for the invasion. Other members such as Austria kept their neutral position in regard to the war. This showed that even though the institutions and procedures for a common foreign policy had been implemented the reality looked different. The member states were not able to find to a common standpoint on the war under the procedures of the CFSP.

4. After the Treaty of Lisbon (2009 - today)

The first alteration to the European foreign policy through the Treaty of Lisbon was the creation of a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy chairing the Foreign Affairs Council, which governs the EU's foreign and security policy. The new High Representative combines the responsibilities of the pre-Lisbon High Representative and the former External Relations Commissioner. The hope was that the new High Representative would be able to “unite the EU's diplomatic, economic and military capabilities in pursuit of more coherent policy” (Smith 2014, p. 39). This was complemented by the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS), a new institution inside the EU tasked with “presenting, explaining and implementing EU policy; […] and conducting negotiations in accordance with a given Mandate” (EEAS, 2015). While the Lisbon treaty solves some of the problems, that previously existed with coordinating European Foreign Policy there is still a high “potential for incoherence” (Smith 2014, p. 39), since there is no single entity representing the EU abroad. “European Council presidency, High Representative and European Commission president all have a role to play in representing the EU in international affairs.” (Smith 2014, p. 39). So while the Treaty of Lisbon was able to make some improvements to the CFSP, the EU is still “nowhere near the establishment of a single European foreign policy” (Smith 2014, p. 43).

II. The case study: The intervention in Libya

The second part aims to analyze the 2011 military intervention in Libya. The focus shall be on problems the EU member states have had with coordinating their foreign policies in regards to the intervention.

1. The intervention's history

CNN has compiled an excellent timeline on the conflict in Libya, which will be the main reference for this part. A link to the timeline is available in the bibliography of this paper. The Libyan civil war can be seen as a part of what has been dubbed the Arab Spring. Immediately after the ousting of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak initially peaceful protests arose in the Libyan city of Benghazi. The Libyan police and security forces reacted violently to these protests. “Human Rights Watch reported that 24 people had been killed by Thursday [17. Feb. 2011] [and] Diplomats reported the use of heavy weapons in Benghazi, [...] and 'a rapidly deteriorating situation' “ (Black/ Bowcott 2014). This caused the protests to turn increasingly violent, and to grow into a full scale uprising especially in the East of the country. Benghazi was taken by the rebels on February 20th , and the overall situation deteriorated so rapidly, that it drew the UN's attention in under 2 weeks after the protests had emerged. The UN sanctions levied against Libya on February 26th contained “an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel bans for Gadhafi and his associates” (CNN 2011).

By March 1st the rebels had taken the eastern part of Libya, while the loyalist forces held the western part of the country. During the first days of march the loyalist forces, supported by the Libyan air force were able to recapture some cities along the coast. The fighting in cities like Misrata and Zawiyah often took a heavy toll on the civilian population, with “snipers […] shooting at anybody on the streets, including residents” (Sherwell 2011) or cities being subjected to tank and artillery shelling.

Reacting to the humanitarian crisis in Libya the UN security council passed Resolution 1973 on March 17th. The resolution”authorized Member States,[...] to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country [...], while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory” (Security Council 2011). The resolution passed by a vote with 10 in favor and 5 abstentions, among them Germany, the only member of the EU to abstain from the vote.


Excerpt out of 13 pages


Obstacles to a common European Foreign Policy. A Case Study on the 2011 Intervention in Libya
LMU Munich
European Foreign Policy
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Policy, Libya, 2011, CFSP, EU, Außenpolitik, Libyen´, obstacles, hindernisse, gemeinsame, GASP, intervention, European Foreign Policy, European Union, Europe, Foreign Policy, European identity
Quote paper
Björn Kraußer (Author), 2014, Obstacles to a common European Foreign Policy. A Case Study on the 2011 Intervention in Libya, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/305360


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