Saturday, 12 January 2008

EU Treaty of Lisbon: CFSP decisions

Who does what in the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) of the European Union? The Lisbon Treaty builds on the existing Treaty on European Union (TEU), as well as the Convention and the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe to define at which level the European Council and the Council decide, and the High Representative and the Member States interact.

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The existing Article 13 TEU (latest consolidated version OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E) says:

“Article 13

1. The European Council shall define the principles of and general guidelines for the common foreign and security policy, including for matters with defence implications.

2. The European Council shall decide on common strategies to be implemented by the Union in areas where the Member States have important interests in common.

Common strategies shall set out their objectives, duration and the means to be made available by the Union and the Member States.

3. The Council shall take the decisions necessary for defining and implementing the common foreign and security policy on the basis of the general guidelines defined by the European Council.

The Council shall recommend common strategies to the European Council and shall implement them, in particular by adopting joint actions and common positions.

The Council shall ensure the unity, consistency and effectiveness of action by the Union.”


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The amending Reform Treaty draws in part on Article III-196 of the Convention, which corresponds with Article III-295 in the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (OJ 16.12.2004 C 310).

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A few remarks by your glossator:

We see a hierarchy of decision makers and decisions.

The European Council, comprising the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, works at the strategic level. It identifies the strategic interests, determines the objectives and defines the general CFSP guidelines.

At the present time, one general reference document is the European Security Strategy, from December 2003. A new security strategy is being prepared.

In an international crisis, the President of the European Council can convene an extraordinary meeting at short notice.

The Council (Ministers for Foreign Affairs) works on the basis of the general guidelines defined by the European Council to frame the CFSP and to define and to implement it.

The High Representative, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Council, is the main operative. He prepares proposals for the Council, heads the External Action Service and implements the decisions together with the Member States. The Council and the High Representative try to ensure the unity, consistency and effectiveness of Union action.

As far as the strictures of decision making procedures and divergent national interests allow, the European Union is served by a logical ‘pyramid’ of decision makers and decisions.

The CFSP structures are intergovernmental, leaving little scope for democratic scrutiny at the EU level. In spite of the abolishment of the ‘pillar structure’ and the merger of the EC into the EU, the CFSP provisions are found in the TEU, not in the TFEU like the ‘normal’ policy areas.

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The Treaty of Lisbon (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306) amends Article 13 TEU. The consolidated version of the Article looks like this:

Article 13

1. The European Council shall identify the Union’s strategic interests, determine the objectives of and define general guidelines for the common foreign and security policy, including for matters with defence implications. It shall adopt the necessary decisions.

If international developments so require, the President of the European Council shall convene an extraordinary meeting of the European Council in order to define the strategic lines of the Union’s policy in the face of such developments.

2. The Council shall frame the common foreign and security policy and take the decisions necessary for defining and implementing it on the basis of the general guidelines and strategic lines defined by the European Council.

The Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall ensure the unity, consistency and effectiveness of action by the Union.

3. The common foreign and security policy shall be put into effect by the High Representative and by the Member States, using national and Union resources.

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Next time we are going to take a closer look at the High Representative.


Ralf Grahn