Monday, 7 January 2008

EU Treaty of Lisbon: External action

The external action of the European Union and the European Community aims to strengthen the security and to enhance the prosperity of the citizens of the EU. The Reform Treaty merges the European Union into the European Union, abolishing the pillar structure but not the intergovernmental decision making procedures specific to the common foreign and security policy or the common security and defence policy.

In addition to the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) and the common security and defence policy (CSDP), the external action of the European Union encompasses the now EC areas of competence: the common commercial policy and development cooperation as well as economic, financial and technical cooperation with third countries. The external aspects of the area of freedom, security and justice (e.g. external border control, migration, terrorism, transborder crime) are becoming increasingly important.

The scale of the challenges is growing, but the ability of individual European countries to deal effectively with the threats and opportunities of globalisation is decreasing. This includes the former European great powers. The United Nations and its agencies are important global forums, but too weak to deal decisively with global issues.

Ideally, the European Union could strengthen peace, stability and progress in the Union and the world.

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The existing Article 3(2) TEU states (latest consolidated version OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E): The Union shall in particular ensure the consistency of its external activities as a whole in the context of its external relations, security, economic and development policies. The Council and the Commission shall be responsible for ensuring such consistency and shall cooperate to this end. They shall ensure the implementation of these policies, each in accordance with its respective powers.

The present Article 11 TEU says:

“1. The Union shall define and implement 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.
2. The Member States shall support the Union’s external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity.
The Member States shall work together to enhance and develop their mutual political solidarity. They shall refrain from any action which is contrary to the interests of the Union or likely to impair its effectiveness as a cohesive force in international relations.
The Council shall ensure that these principles are complied with.”

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The Convention proposed some steps towards a more coherent foreign policy for the EU, starting with the general principles named in Article III-193. The contents were taken over, first in Article III-292 of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (OJ 16.12.2004, C 310) and then in the Treaty of Lisbon, as Article 10a TEU. (Only the “Union Minister for Foreign Affairs” became the “High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy” in Article 10a(3) second subparagraph.)

This was in accordance with the IGC 2007 Mandate (Council document 11218/07, point 15), which gives an overview of what was to become the Reform Treaty:

“15. In Title V of the existing TEU, a first new Chapter on the general provisions on the Union’s external action will be inserted containing two Articles, as agreed in the 2004 IGC, on the principles and objectives of the Union’s external action and on the role of the European Council in setting the strategic interests and objectives of this action. The second Chapter contains the provisions of Title V (6) of the existing TEU, as amended in the 2004 IGC (including the European External Action Service and the permanent structured cooperation in the field of defence). In this Chapter, a new first Article will be inserted stating that the Union’s action on the international scene will be guided by the principles, will pursue the objectives and will be conducted in accordance with the general provisions on the Union’s external action which are laid down in Chapter 1. It will be clearly specified in this Chapter that the CFSP is subject to specific procedures and rules. There will also be a specific legal base on personal data protection in the CFSP area (7).

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(6) The IGC will agree on the following Declaration: The Conference underlines that the provisions in the Treaty on European Union covering the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including the creation of the office of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the establishment of an External Action Service, do not affect the responsibilities of the Member States, as they currently exist, for the formulation and conduct of their foreign policy nor of their national representation in third countries and international organisations.
The Conference also recalls that the provisions governing the Common Security and Defence Policy do not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of the Member States.
It stresses that the EU and its Member States will remain bound by the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and in particular, by the primary responsibility of the Security Council and of its Members for the maintenance of international peace and security.

(7) With regard to the processing of such data by the Member States when carrying out activities which fall within the CFSP and ESDP and the movement of such data.”

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Your glossator’s remarks:

The principles to guide the external action of the European Union seem to be balanced and uncontested. The problems start with the means to reach the desired aims, as shown by later Treaty provisions and Declarations annexed to the Reform Treaty.

Opposing views have been presented on if the Lisbon Treaty is going to create a European Union which is a “superstate” or “superpower”. On the whole, my answer would be that better internal coordination of preparation and implementation of foreign policy does contribute to more consistent policy actions in the future, but fundamentally the EU remains at the mercy of the individual Member States and their ‘liberum veto’.

The EU will continue to punch below its weight, but perhaps a little bit less so than presently. With the common foreign and security policy of the EU continuing within the sphere of intergovernmental cooperation, democratic scrutiny and accountability of the external action are going to be weak.


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In the Treaty of Lisbon (OJ 17.12.2007, C 306), TEU Title V is called General provisions on the Union’s external action and specific provisions on the common foreign and security policy. A Chapter 1 General provisions on the Union’s external action is inserted, starting with an Article 10a.

Article 10a

1. The Union's action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.

The Union shall seek to develop relations and build partnerships with third countries, and international, regional or global organisations which share the principles referred to in the first subparagraph. It shall promote multilateral solutions to common problems, in particular in the framework of the United Nations.

2. The Union shall define and pursue common policies and actions, and shall work for a high degree of cooperation in all fields of international relations, in order to:

(a) safeguard its values, fundamental interests, security, independence and integrity;

(b) consolidate and support democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the principles of international law;

(c) preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, with the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and with the aims of the Charter of Paris, including those relating to external borders;

(d) foster the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty;

(e) encourage the integration of all countries into the world economy, including through the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade;

(f) help develop international measures to preserve and improve the quality of the environment and the sustainable management of global natural resources, in order to ensure sustainable development;

(g) assist populations, countries and regions confronting natural or man-made disasters; and

(h) promote an international system based on stronger multilateral cooperation and good global governance.

3. The Union shall respect the principles and pursue the objectives set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 in the development and implementation of the different areas of the Union's external action covered by this Title and by Part Five of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and of the external aspects of its other policies.

The Union shall ensure consistency between the different areas of its external action and between these and its other policies. The Council and the Commission, assisted by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, shall ensure that consistency and shall cooperate to that effect.

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Next time we turn to the strategic role of the European Council.


Ralf Grahn