The future of the EU-Foreign Policy in the light of the constitutional treaty

Seminar Paper, 2005

22 Pages, Grade: A-


Table of Content

I.) Introduction

II.) EU Common Foreign Policy up to now – Developments and Outlines

III.) The Institution: Changes and Constants concerning the CSFP

IV.) Potentialities and Shortcomings of the Provisions for the CSFP

V.) Concluding Remarks

VI.) Bibliography

I.) Introduction

A common Euro­pean policy in fields of Foreign and Security Affairs has always been one of the crucial points of ongoing European Integration. It seems suitable that one can find here a point where the controversial debate about a supranational or a more inter­governmental character of the Union manifests itself. Since the ex­ternal relations of a nation-state are still considered as the core of national quali­ties the activities and authorities of the EU in this area are consequently much more disputed than, for instance, issues only regarding the Common Market. From the early days of European integration on, the EU has been trying to enhance its ability to perform as a unified and effective actor on the global stage. However, to some extent many of the purposes remained ambitious rhetoric. Great expecta­tions with little or no chance of actually coming to fruition, this could, if you put it in a nutshell, appar­ently be an easy and appropriate description of the dilemma the EU foreign and security policy suffers. Many observers expected a fundamental shift with the work of the constitutional convention. The arising euphoria about the Treaty es­tablishing a Constitution for Europe (hereafter: TCE) had soon worn off since the constitutional breakthrough has not happened.

This paper con­centrates on the impact of the TCE on the future of the Common Foreign and Se­curity Policy (CFSP) and in particular on Foreign Policy rather than the security aspects. It focuses on the question whether there is great probability that the TCE will improve Europe’s capability to act according to the demands the Union made on several occasions on itself. In order to discuss this, the paper will recapitulate the main develop­ments and outlines of the CSFP up to now in a first step from a rather historical perspective. The spotlight will turn to the current discussion about the constitution and its con­sequences in chapter three. This section will include a rather technical look on the constitutional arrangements but also an analysis of potentials and shortcomings lying in the TCE.

Chapter VI will deal with attempts at expla­nations and will therefore briefly discuss major theories of European Integration and their explanatory capacity. A last part is reserved for some concluding remarks and brief outlook.

II.) EU Common Foreign Policy up to now –

Developments and Outlines

The dominant view among scholars and politicians on the CSFP is that it had not enabled the EU to meet the demands corresponding to its size as economic power and its own ambitions. Generally, there was a great agreement, that this was due to leading role the member states played in the decision-making structures of the CSFP. Whereas most observers accused the national egoisms and the diverging interests of the member states to cause the lack of coherence in the collective affairs, there seems to be a political understanding and an underlying desire that Europe should play a more proactive role in international relations to serve European interests and common values.[1] Regularly, the lamentation about the absent coherent appearance refers to the comparison, that Europe is an economic colossus but a political pigmy.[2] Therefore, the debate is quite old, but became more intense after the dramatic change in the world order in the early 1990ties and in the aftermath of the Maastricht summit in 1991.

The creation of the three “pillar” based community construction in the Treaty of Maastricht in 1991 implemented the Foreign Policy into the contractual frame­work of the European Union and many observers and contributing policy makers viewed this as a major strengthening of the Union’s capability to act more effec­tive on the global stage. However, this institutional change, which felt short of the high hopes many had, was not the starting point of the process leading to further integration even in formerly carefully as a member state responsibility protected policy areas.

After the debacle of the French-induced demise of the European Defence Community initiative, a quite long period of concentration on exclusively eco­nomic issues in the community followed.[3] This does not mean that there was no pro­gress at all, since there were several attempts to coordinate the foreign policies of the members of the European Community after this unsuccessful try. While the Fouchet Plans of the early 1960ties were doomed to failure, a first step towards a wanted closer political union, the European Political Cooperation (EPC), came into being in 1970, following a proposal of the Davignon Report.[4] Without any for­mal status in the European Community (EC) treaties, the EPC was nothing but a diplomatic network of foreign ministers and others concerned, which served the goal to adjust positions and broader approaches on varied international issues among officials of European countries.[5] Many perceived this development as the inception of a Common Foreign Policy, even if it needed more than 30 years to reach the current, still unfinished, level.[6] The desire of the EU to “speak with a sin­gle voice” in international affairs is therefore not new, but how old and persis­tent this aspiration might have been and somehow still is, to achieve this aim fi­nally seemed always quite difficult through the divergent interests within the EU.[7] Of course, we do speak about a system operating “by consensus, but with no obli­gation to reach it.”[8] Even though the Single European Act in 1987 gave EPC for the first time an official role in the EC treaties, the character of it remained largely declaratory. Without any binding regularities, the agreed common positions should function as points of reference for respective policy of the members. Therefore, the outcome in terms of coherent action of the thirteen years of EPC progression was relatively small. In spite of this, one should mention that the EPC at least reached alignment in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe or on Middle East policy coordination.[9] Maybe on the long run most effec­tive, EPC with its regular contacts and meetings created a better understand­ing among the European diplomats and facilitated to harmonize member state po­sitions on various issues. However, foreign policies in Europe were still nationally made, when the wide-ranging significant upheavals of the ending cold war took place in the beginning of the 1990ties.[10]

It was only with the 1991 Maastricht Treaty when CFSP replaced the EPC and therefore the external dimension became a part of the community. The summit result was the well-known artificial looking structure of three pillars, with the European Community as the first pillar, the CSFP as the second, and Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) as the third. Crucial for the CSFP ability was the fact, that the power extension for the integrated community insti­tutions was limited to the first pillar. The other two, and therefore the CSFP, stayed more or less entirely intergovernmental. Obviously, this was a sign of a lowest common denominator comprise between the conflicting concepts one could find amid EC’s member states. For those states that supported foreign pol­icy integration within the EC, it was especially a disappointment, that there was no real improvement in terms of a use of majority voting in foreign policy.[11] The treaty formally brought a new distinction between “common positions” and joint actions”, and the latter was supposed to be the key instrument, backed up by the first-mentioned which is more about intentions and long term priorities.[12] Albeit all efforts, in practise both EU foreign policy devices were not able to change the declaratory character of the former EPC, since the treaty stated that the Council “shall act unanimously” and therefore decision-making remained difficult. Hence, the de facto advancement of the modifications in the Maastricht treaty can be called into doubt. Whereas therefore the big shift in the nature of European for­eign policy did not take place, the high number of common positions and pub­lished political statements could at least demonstrate growing consensus over the relations with third states in the EU.

Largely fostered by the admitted failure during the crisis in Bosnia the desire to make some bold moves in the CSFP was significant before the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) in 1996/97. The main changes of the Amsterdam treaty were the appointment of a High Representative (HR) for the CFSP – the so-called Mr/Mrs. CFSP – , the setting up of a foreign policy planning unit at the EU Council of Ministers and a closer cooperation between the EU and the WEU.[13] It was agreed, that majority voting would be used in the implementation phase of foreign policy only, while the strategic choices are still made with unanimity.[14] Besides this, the treaty created a new category of decision, the common strategies.[15] However, “the decision-making system, primarily directed towards the intergovernmental sphere, was left essentially unchanged.”[16]

Often only seen as concerned to the enlargement project and the proportion of votes in the council, the IGC in Nice 2000 launched renewals for the related fields as well, though they were very modest to the essence of the CSFP, because firm intergovernmental elements constantly dominated the CSFP.[17] The institutionalizing of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) caused, indirectly a strengthening of the member states role, since all decisions relating to military or other defence had to be unanimous according to the treaty.[18] Probably most important Nice revised the, in Amsterdam introduced, possibility of enhanced cooperation in the second pillar.[19] This means that one group of those member states who are willing and able to go for further integration has the opportunity to do so.[20]


[1] Pernice/Thym, 2002, p. 369

[2] Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet, 2002, p. 260

[3] Nicoll/Salmon, 2001, p. 345

[4] Gordon, 1997, p. 83

[5] Ibid., p. 84

[6] Wessels, 2004, p. 31

[7] This also includes the purpose to vote by unanimity in International Organizations, although the record of this is not a story of success. See Johannson-Nogues, 2004, particularly p. 69

[8] Nicoll/Salmon, 2001, p. 350

[9] If the reached decisions concerned with the Middle East were also political sensible is another question. At least an agreement is noticeable.

[10] Gordon, 1997, p. 85

[11] Gordon, 1997, p. 86

[12] Common positions and joint actions have been used on several occasions such as the Balkan crises, election observation in Russia, support for transition in South Africa, the Middle East peace process, or the control of dual-use goods. See Nicoll/Salmon, 2001, p. 354

[13] Even if the appointment of the High Representative for the CSFP brought no change in decision-making questions, it had a crucial symbolic and thus an important representative function, both outside and inside the EU.

[14] Gordon, 1997, p. 87

[15] One of the cases were a “Common Strategy” was used is the policy on Russia, see Nicoll/Salmon, 2001, p. 370

[16] Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet, 2002, p. 258

[17] Ibid., p. 260

[18] Ibid., p. 258

[19] Pernice/Thym, 2002, p. 382

[20] Algieri/Emmanouilidis/Giering, 2003, p. 2

Excerpt out of 22 pages


The future of the EU-Foreign Policy in the light of the constitutional treaty
Sabancı University
The European Union: Politics, Policies and Governance
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ISBN (eBook)
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EU-Foreign, Policy, European, Union, Politics, Policies, Governance
Quote paper
Timo Rahmann (Author), 2005, The future of the EU-Foreign Policy in the light of the constitutional treaty, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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