Thursday 23 July 2009

For a nationalist Britain without allies

This is the Britain Europe, the United States and the rest of the world should expect, when the Conservative Party takes the reins of government in the United Kingdom, as set out by William Hague 21 July 2009:

“It is now widely understood that the financial and economic challenges to be faced by the government elected at the coming general election will be of extraordinary magnitude.

With the government's deficit as a proportion of national income running at its highest since the end of the Second World War there is no doubt that the principal legacy of the current government to its successors and to the next generation will be debt, and debt on a scale that will take many years to scale back.

Yet amidst all the attention rightly given to the massive economic challenges facing the next government, we must not neglect the need to focus at the same time on mounting external challenges which go beyond the economic sphere but which will be all the more difficult to deal with at a time when resources will necessarily be so constrained.

Any informed assessment of likely trends in world affairs over the next decade, on which our whole national future heavily depends, is a sobering one. While optimism, hope and faith in human nature must always be present in our approach to these issues we nevertheless have to recognise that the outlook in foreign affairs, just as much as in economic affairs, will require all the ability, energy and focus we can bring to it and that the pattern of events we might expect leads unmistakably and uncomfortably to a world environment in which it will be more difficult for this country and its traditional allies to achieve their foreign policy goals unless we improve the way we go about them.

Yet this country continues to possess great assets and advantages, among them a skilled and highly regarded diplomatic corps, a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, a bipartisan approach to certain aspects of foreign policy which has provided continuity and certainty over time, an exceptionally strong relationship with the United States of America, a major role in the affairs of the European Union, historic links with many nations outside North America and Europe, many of which are formalised in the Commonwealth, and the enormous but less tangible influence that comes from being a global trading nation and the home of one of the great languages of humanity. We also have the immense advantage of armed forces that are considered around the world to be among the finest it is possible to possess, although currently under grievous strain. The net result of such advantages is that Britain still carries far more clout in the world than its current share of the world population would suggest.

Such assets should always give us confidence and the fortifying knowledge that the foundations exist for building up British influence in selected areas if we chose to do so. At the same time, the advent of the kind of international co-operation at least discussed at recent summits of the G20, and of a new United States administration with a multilateral approach to foreign policy that provides other nations with a fresh opportunity to respond positively, both give some cause for optimism in international relations. It is not unreasonable at least to hope for advances in the Middle East Peace Process, for success in a new approach in Afghanistan, for a better era in US-Russia relations and for a more constructive response to the international community from the leadership of Iran, or a more determined effort by the international community to overcome Iranian intransigence, and while the prospect of any of these hopes coming to fruition survives it is vital for America's allies to work hard to bring that about for the good of all.

So as we survey the world's changing landscape there is no need for any of us to despair. Yet equally it would be a mistake to allow our current hopes to obscure the longer-term trends which, whatever the ups and downs of any given year, are likely to make it harder for a country such as Britain to pursue a chosen policy and to protect its interests and citizens. Looking a decade or two ahead, powerful forces of economics and demography elsewhere in the world will make it harder for us to maintain our influence. Conventional assumptions about what Britain and its main partners can readily achieve in world affairs will be eroded. And the likelihood of this happening is sufficiently great, and the challenge it will present sufficiently daunting, that it is vital we understand it and equip ourselves for it now. Simply put, Britain stands to lose a good deal of its ability to shape world affairs unless we decide we will not accept that and are prepared to do what is needed.

That there may be turbulent times ahead is a common thread running through most analyses of the next few decades. The recent report on national security by the IPPR, Shared Responsibilities, a national security strategy for the UK argued that "we have to learn to live in a more complex, less predictable environment, facing a broader spread of risks, with greater interdependence and reduced government power".

There are many specific reasons why the world looks likely to be a more dangerous rather than less dangerous place in the coming decades. For previous generations such increased danger usually occurred because of the rise of a single, dominant adversary. This is not the case in the first half of the twenty-first century, which looks likely to be characterised instead by growing political, economic and military uncertainty.

The first factor bringing such insecurity is the prevalence of state failure, the collapse of government in a country bringing vastly enhanced opportunities to develop terrorist networks, private armies, organised crime and links between all of them.

Indeed, so serious is this contagion that we may now need to speak of the emergence of what may come to be called failed or failing regions. This applies particularly to the Horn of Africa but could also apply to Afghanistan and Pakistan unless our efforts to turn the tide there succeed. This new phenomenon of failing regions will have serious consequences for our already struggling capability to reverse the decline of crumbling states, just as globalisation means that the threats within these regions cannot be easily contained.

A second factor, growing directly from the first, is the increasingly transnational dimension of terrorism. A terrorist today, for instance, may be a citizen of Somalia, who was educated in Yemen, has been trained in Pakistan and may be fighting in Afghanistan or attempting to commit a terrorist attack on the streets of Britain. This vastly complicates the task of identifying and stopping those who would attack us and requires unprecedented cooperation with our allies.

Third, and again related to the other two is the changing character of conflict from conventional to irregular warfare, exemplified by the Improvised Explosive Devices that have claimed most of the British lives lost in Afghanistan and Iraq - undermining traditional military power, redefining military victory and challenging the assumption that victory on the battlefield can be swiftly be followed by development and 'nation' building. As David Kilcullen has put it in The Accidental Guerrilla, "Given overwhelming US conventional superiority, and contrary to the pre-9/11 conventional turns out that adversaries do not give up the armed struggle under these conditions: rather, any smart enemy goes unconventional; and most enemies are likely to continue doing so, until we demonstrate the ability to prevail in irregular conflicts such as those we are currently engaged in."

These three factors feed on and are fed by the extent of chronic poverty within the developing world which means that, despite the economic success of many developing countries, roughly 1 billion people are not only being left behind but are falling further behind, described by Paul Collier in his landmark book The Bottom Billion as "a billion people stuck in a train that is slowly rolling downhill". Poverty is not, of course, either a justification or an explanation for terrorism. But it does help to make such countries havens for threats to our national security which may include not only terrorism, but illegal trafficking and pandemic disease.

Failed states and widespread poverty are problems growing today but are scarcely new in human history. But on top of these problems, worrying enough in themselves, come two central challenges which are immense in their scope and which the world has never had to face before. The first of these is the risk of irreversible climate change. In some cases this brings a threat to the very existence of nations, as is brought home if you listen to the new and eloquent President of the Maldives describe the predicament of a country no part of which is more than six feet above sea level. A study by the UN environment programme found that the war in Darfur, one of the horrific conflicts of our times, has been driven by climate change and environmental degradation. It is easy to see how shortages of water could lead to tension and even conflict between nations. Unless enough action is taken quickly enough this phenomenon looks set to cause wars, disease, starvation or the laying waste of entire regions. It is therefore in our national interest to move to a genuinely low-carbon economy and act with our international partners to reach agreement on a successor treaty to Kyoto to reduce global emissions, keep global temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius and avoid catastrophic climate change.

The second new and potentially immensely destabilising force is the spread of nuclear science. Civil nuclear energy can bring immense benefits to humanity and indeed provide part of the answer to the challenge of climate change. But the global spread of nuclear technology and materials threatens a new age of nuclear insecurity involving a rash of new nuclear weapons states or even the acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorists, a risk which may grow in parallel to their possible possession of chemical or biological devices. And as in the case of climate change, decisions taken in the next year or two will be crucial in determining whether this colossal risk can be minimised. After that it may be too late, for the alarming features of these two central threats are not only that they are new, and not only that their consequences are unknowable, but also that they are almost certainly not reversible once they have happened.

The list of worrying factors is by no means exhaustive: one only has to think of the many risks involved in energy security to add a further dimension, but the overall trends are clear and worrying enough. This troubling scenario is bad enough in itself, but the outlook from London, and to varying degrees from other European capitals, is further compounded in its grimness when it is understood that the relative economic power of many Western nations is in decline.

Economic success makes a big difference to foreign policy influence and sometimes quite quickly so. The economic renaissance of Britain in the 1980s undoubtedly reinforced the influence of British ministers on world affairs, something which Tony Blair was happy to enjoy while his then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, was busily ruining that very renaissance. One of the damaging effects of Gordon Brown's catastrophic stewardship of Britain's finances, and of additionally reducing Britain from second to twelfth place in the international league of competitiveness according to the World Economic Forum, is the diminishing of our economic power and by extension the effectiveness of our international role.

Such additional short-term decline is exasperating because it is so unnecessary, but on top of that the huge expansion of economies such as those of China and India means that in our working lifetimes the size of the European economies relative to the rest of the world looks set to shrink dramatically. The European Commission's own projections have shown Europe's share of the world economy declining from 18% now to 10% by 2050. And even the United States is not immune from the effect of economic problems.

This diminished economic weight will have a major impact on the ability of Western nations to achieve their foreign policy goals. For instance, we are used to the idea of calling for economic sanctions against nations whose human rights records we find unacceptable, South Africa under apartheid being the celebrated cause of the effect that sanctions can have. Now we apply them to recalcitrant regimes in Burma, Zimbabwe and Iran, and indeed we may be coming very close to the time when much tougher sanctions on Iran are needed in the light of her nuclear programme. Yet it is already clear that the power of such economic weapons is declining and it follows from this analysis that it will decline much further in the years to come.

What is more, much of the economic weight in the world is passing to countries which either do not fully share our concepts of democracy and human rights or for their own reasons are opposed to interventionist approaches to foreign policy. China, which I will discuss later, is an obvious case. In recent weeks the Western boycott of financial support for Zimbabwe, designed to isolate Mugabe and encourage a democratic transition has been undermined by China's decision to provide that country with a $1 billion credit line. China gave robust support to the Sri Lankan government in the recent war, and Western countries proved unable to pass a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council calling for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses in the conflict there. India, another rising power, and the world's most populous democracy, is nevertheless traditionally not inclined to support our Western inclination to promote human rights through economic pressure and sometimes military intervention. Nor are many of the other growing economic power centres in the world, whether in Brazil or the Gulf.

Not only is the world not converging around our own democratic norms - according to the Freedom House 2009 survey, global freedom suffered its third year of decline in 2008 - but newly powerful democratic nations do not necessarily share our view of how to conduct foreign policy. In Britain, "Liberal interventionism" has generated much debate but to varying degrees all of us have subscribed to it. The economic sanctions I have mentioned have all enjoyed consensus political support, as have the military interventions in Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, Iraq being a much more controversial case but nevertheless heavily supported at the time. We are all agreed that we would try to intervene if another Rwanda were predicted and would like to do more in Darfur. But in the years and decades to come, the rise of other nations will constrain our ability to act in this way.

A further constraint will come in the form of tightly controlled military budgets. The extreme pressures on our own defence budget obviously necessitate a strategic defence review, which an incoming Conservative government will certainly undertake. It is crucial that such a review is informed by the changing pattern of threats I have described rather than financial considerations alone. France is also busily engaged in reshaping its armed forces. But beyond Britain and France there is no sign of other European nations making a serious effort to develop greater military capabilities. Indeed it is our criticism of EU defence arrangements that they too often involve the "rehatting" or duplication of NATO structures - just calling something European does not mean it has actually enhanced Europe's ability to act.

Does this background of a decline in our relative economic base and severe constraints on our military capabilities mean that we simply accept a much diminished role in world affairs? The United Kingdom has engaged before in major, conscious acts of strategic shrinkage, such as the withdrawal from the East of Suez after 1968. But the Conservative Party's answer to whether further such shrinkage will be right for Britain's international role in the decade to come is no. True, as a nation we will have to accustom ourselves to there being more situations which we dislike but cannot directly change but it is our contention that Britain must seek to retain her influence wherever possible and in some places seek to extend it. We must not disconsolately cease to make the effort. Foreign policy is above all about the protection and promotion of our national interest, and even narrowly defined, the British national interest requires our continued fully active engagement in world affairs since all the threatening factors I have listed are a threat to the interests of this country. No other nation or group of nations are going to increase the protection they afford us, and the essential alliances we enjoy with the United States and European nations depend directly on us continuing to do a great deal for ourselves.

In its broadest sense, what we might call our "enlightened national interest" requires British global engagement too. Britain will be safer if our values are strongly upheld and widely respected in the world. Nor would Britain ever be happy as a nation if we partly or largely retired from trying to influence world events. The citizens of Britain have always been restless in trying to improve the wider world and global in our outlook. We have always been at the forefront of international charity, development aid, and the welcoming of refugees. Two hundred years ago it was the Royal Navy that helped to drive the slave trade from the high seas and our parliament led the way even then in challenging the excesses of colonial rule. It is not in our character to have a foreign policy without a conscience: to be idle or uninterested while others starve or murder each other in their millions is not for us.

That is why David Cameron and I have spoken in recent years of our approach to foreign affairs being based on "Liberal Conservatism" in that we believe in freedom, human rights and democracy and want to see more of these things in other nations. But Conservative, because we believe strongly in the continued relevance of the nation state and are sceptical of grand utopian schemes to re-make the world. As David Cameron said: "My instinct is to work patiently with the grain of human nature; with the flow of culture, tradition and history."

We are conscious that our international role is no isolated subject. In such a changed world, with such stark threats, how we react to them and how Britain uses its abilities is a crucial part of who we are as a country, how we regard ourselves, and what it will mean in the next generation to be British.

So if Britain is to continue to be globally engaged in a meaningful and influential sense, albeit with a more realistic sense of the possible on how rapidly nations can be built or democracy entrenched, how on earth are we going to do it? The answer to that will constitute our approach to foreign policy, and it must necessarily involve using our resources more effectively, increasing our knowledge of other countries and often strengthening relations with them and launching and sustaining certain initiatives over many years. In January 2007 in my speech at Chatham House I set out five themes for the foreign policy of the next Conservative government. Two and a half years on they remain valid against the background I have described but it is now time to update them.

The first of these themes is learning from past mistakes to improve the decision-making of British government itself. I have already mentioned the need for a strategic defence review, and it is consistent with what I have argued that this must be focused not on whether Britain should be able to project military force elsewhere in the world but how it will do so. It is not the purpose of this speech to pre-empt in any way that review. But I wish to make clear now, first that it will be a defence and national security review, covering all aspects of Britain's security and not just the Armed Forces; second that it will be guided by the requirements of foreign policy and not solely by financial constraints; and third that we will not shrink from adapting our future Armed Forces for this changed world.

Good decision-making also requires the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be in its rightful place at the centre of decision- making. It is our intention to take a close interest not only in its day-to-day decisions but in its future as a great institution, able to attract the finest talent and, while it cannot have a monopoly of knowledge or expertise to be at the centre of Britain's thinking about and development of relationships with other nations. In my view, the sofa-style decision-making of Labour's Downing Street has often prevented it from taking this role.

The recent badly handled announcement of the Iraq War Inquiry was a classic example of decisions made hurriedly in Downing Street which the Foreign Secretary was then left to defend, underlining the fact that in modern government the Foreign Office can only exercise its proper influence if there is a close political and personal relationship between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.

A Conservative government will establish a real National Security Council as a Committee of the Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister or in his absence by the Foreign Secretary. This will bring together on a regular basis the work of the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office, the Department for International Development and Ministers responsible for other relevant matters such as Energy. We intend this not to be a new bureaucracy but a centre of decision-making and we understand that it will only work if it is treated as such, buttressed by cross-departmental teams supporting it and covering the whole range of national security issues, not only defence and foreign policy.

The attempt by the Brown government to create a National Security apparatus in response to our demand for one has been a pitiful failure, typical, even in this vital area, of the prevalence of short-term gimmicks over sustained effort in the current administration. The National Security Committee, announced with much fanfare in July 2007 met only three times in the twenty months that followed; the Prime Minister's National Security Forum has had no discernable impact at all; and since the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy was announced a year ago its members have not even been appointed. This chronic failure to institutionalise cross-departmental working is in our view a serious impediment to the successful execution of foreign and security policies, and it is an urgent priority to rectify it. The recent decision of the US administration to institute a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review should be examined as a possibility for this country too.

The second of our crucial themes is our commitment to the transatlantic alliance, which David Cameron and I have long argued should be "solid but not slavish" in its nature. In our view, the high points of Anglo-American co-operation in the last century have been when there was not only a close relationship between British and American leaders but also the readiness to conduct a vigorous debate between them. That indeed is how we have conducted ourselves: while being absolutely clear that whether it be in matters of intelligence, nuclear weapons, diplomacy or commerce, the close alliance with the United States is and will remain indispensable to the United Kingdom. We have also imparted a frank message when needed. In my first speech as Shadow Foreign Secretary, in Washington in February 2006, I argued that in standing up for the rule of law we must be careful not to employ methods that undermine it and that reports of prisoner abuse and of extraordinary rendition flights leading to the torture of suspects resulted in a loss of goodwill towards America as serious to us all as the sharpest of military defeats.

The Conservative Party fully supports the foreign policy initiatives so far undertaken by the Obama administration and we are ready to work with our counterparts in Washington from the opening moments of a new government in Britain. Central to that work, and the single most urgent priority in foreign policy if and when we come to government will be the American, British and wider NATO commitment in Afghanistan.

The Conservative Party supports the deployment of our armed forces in Afghanistan. Let me be clear that we are not in Afghanistan to conquer that country but to bring about a situation where Afghans can provide for their own security and livelihoods while not presenting a danger to the rest of the world. In consequence we believe our political objectives in Afghanistan should be tightly drawn and regularly reviewed, and that ever greater priority needs to be attached to the role of the Afghan forces. Currently only 10% of them are deployed in Helmand even though 40% of the fighting is there. Everyone knows that NATO forces cannot be in Afghanistan forever, but the acceleration of the training and building up of the Afghan army would mean time would work against the Taliban instead of in their favour.

Alongside our priority to bring success to Afghanistan will be the emphasis we give to working with our international allies and friends to help Pakistan transform itself into a stable, prosperous, and democratic state, capable of controlling terrorist threats inside and outside its borders, committing to a secure Afghanistan, and actively working to limit the extent of further nuclear proliferation. The multiplicity of British connections to Pakistan, through hundreds of thousands of families as well as Pakistan's leaders, gives Britain a particular role in supporting Pakistan's democratic future.

We will also seek to buttress American efforts to give new impetus to the Middle East Peace Process, emphasising the need for a freeze on all Israeli settlement activity and adherence to the Quartet Principles by all Palestinian leaders as essential prerequisites for successful negotiations. We will also continue the process I began on our own behalf two years ago of robust dialogue with Syria, working to edge her towards playing a constructive role in the region and closer to a lasting peace deal with Israel.

The third vital theme of Conservative Foreign Policy is the freshening and deepening of alliances outside Europe and North America, an approach which is vital to the maintenance of British influence in the world given the trends in world affairs I outlined earlier. On his visit to India in 2006 David Cameron said he believed it was time for Britain and India to forge a new special relationship, focusing particularly on fighting terrorism, protecting the environment and globalisation. He said, "For too long, politics in this country has been obsessed with Europe and America. Of course these relationships are, and will continue to be, vital. But serious and responsible leadership in the twenty-first century means engaging with far greater energy in parts of the world where Britain's strategic interests will increasingly lie."

India is also a leading member of the Commonwealth, an organisation which in our view has been neglected and undervalued under the Labour government in Britain. In last year's strategy document from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the only mention of the Commonwealth was in the title, "Foreign and Commonwealth Office". While we must be realistic about what such a diverse organisation can achieve, its extraordinary diversity nevertheless offers some strengths: it is a unique network of fifty-three countries spanning five continents and with thirty percent of the world's population. We believe the Commonwealth is a tool to be picked up and used more often, in particular, to tackle inter-faith dialogue and conflict prevention. A good example of how it could be used is to encourage it to take a leading role in addressing state failure, like co-ordinating a future rehabilitation package for its former member Zimbabwe.

Yet the Commonwealth is not the only group of countries where we can recreate historic connections on a new, modern basis. I have long-argued that Britain should embark on the elevation of its links with many of the countries of the Middle East and Gulf, not only diplomatically but in matters of culture, education, commerce and security, and that this should be done as a cross-party, cross-government initiative pursued consistently over many years. It is strategically vital to strengthen Britain's links with many friendly Muslim nations and not only in the Gulf, and not only for political reasons, since it is vital to make the most of opportunities to expand our trade and investment. It is this kind of all-round strengthening of our links with allies, as well as dealing with potential threats, that our co-ordinated national security is designed approach is designed to help us achieve.

Critics of a closer relationship with some Muslim states will say that they do not conform to all of our own democratic and liberal values, but it is a vital part of understanding the world we are facing in the coming decades that we will not be able to prescribe the form of government in all the countries with whom we need friendly relations. British leaders will rightly always argue that democracy and freedom are the soundest basis for national security and international peace for other countries as well as our own. Yet in foreign policy idealism must always be tempered with realism: even those countries like many of the Gulf States, which are making democratic reforms, will do so at varying paces and sometimes over an extended period.

Similarly, it is in our strategic national interest to have an effective and strong relationship with China. Relations with China are often characterised by tensions over human rights. Our approach has always been to be consistent in raising such issues and not to shrink from debating them with Chinese leaders. At the same time, however, if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons and the urgency of dealing with climate change are the greatest threats to the future of humanity, we must acknowledge that we cannot hope to solve these problems without working closely with China's leaders. A Conservative government will therefore promote sustained dialogue and close understanding with China and a relationship in which, even where there is sharp disagreement, neither side will walk away.

It is similarly not in Britain's national interest to be in permanent confrontation with Russia, but a sustained improvement in those relations will require a major effort on both sides. I make no criticism of the Labour government for its poor relations with Russia, for a wide range of issues ranging from the invasion of Georgia through the treatment of the British Council to the Litvinenko murder have made improved relations impossible in recent years. Britain must remain firm in its belief that countries such as the Ukraine and Georgia must be free to determine their futures. Nevertheless, the "reset button" pressed by Hillary Clinton provides the opportunity for improved relations between Moscow and other Western capitals. Again, the proliferation of nuclear weapons is an issue very difficult to deal with without a working relationship with Russia. It is in Russia's national interest too for such issues to be dealt with, and to work more effectively with the US, Britain and other Western nations. With a Conservative government the door will be open to improved relations with Russia. We shall see if a door opens in return.

The fourth theme of Conservative foreign policy is one in which the cross-party consensus in Britain is very strong: the effective reform of global institutions to allow international co-operation in the face of the threats I have outlined to be enhanced.

This is clearly true in the economic area, where the focus of economic decision-making clearly needs to shift more to bodies such as the G20, and it is true of the United Nations, on which the Conservative Party share the view of the current government that the Security Council should be reformed to include permanent membership for Germany, Japan, Brazil, India and African representation. We have no illusions, however, about how difficult it will be to bring this about.

The European Union is also one of the institutions which must adapt to the changing distribution of world economic and political weight. This is not a speech about European policy: our belief that the European Union needs to focus on the issues of global competitiveness, global poverty and climate change is well known, as is our opposition to the greater centralisation of power in the EU, as embodied in the Lisbon Treaty. We see that Treaty as leading to institutional conflict within the EU, for instance, between the President and the High Representative on Foreign Policy, and a loss of democratic decision-making in nation states, a profound problem that the German Constitutional Court raised in its recent decision on the Lisbon Treaty. Institutional centralisation will not supply, and is even displacement activity for, what Europe really needs to develop in world affairs, which is the political will to use its collective weight effectively and a focus on practical results.

This is true of its relations with Russia, but also starkly true of the situation in the Balkans, where the EU is often failing to exert itself effectively even in relation to countries which many of us hope will one day be its members. There have been many positive developments, but some of the countries of the Western Balkans, most notably Bosnia-Herzegovina, are still tilting unsteadily between their past and their future. A lack of persistent international focus on the region until these countries are fully and irreversibly on the path to joining the EU and NATO could turn the successes of the last decade into the failure of this decade.

A Conservative government will work particularly to sharpen the European focus on the Balkans which we will see as a major test of what the EU can accomplish in foreign affairs. As Lord Ashdown put it last year in his article, Europe needs a wake-up call, Bosnia is on the edge again, "With an EU military force still here, an EU Special Representative with Executive Powers, a huge EU aid budget and a full-scale EU police mission, the EU has more leverage in Bosnia than in any other country. What will it say about the EU's pretensions if we will not act effectively to stop this bust-up happening?" Grand visions and ambitions are vain if the EU cannot demonstrate effectiveness in its common policies in its immediate neighbourhood.

It is vital too that the EU does not give up on enlargement. A European Union without the Western Balkans would forever have a disillusioned and disenchanted hole near its centre. And a Europe that turned its back on Turkey would have made an immense strategic error.

The effective reform of international institutions also includes the updating of international treaties, of which by far the most important is the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, due for a major review conference in April and May next year, quite possibly at the same time as our general election. In the last three years I have given two lectures here at the IISS on what needs to be done to strengthen this treaty and the powers of the International Atomic Energy Agency, proposals I have discussed with the new US administration and which are very much in line with President Obama's crucial speech in Prague in April.

This may well be the main opportunity to fend off the nightmare vision of the effective collapse of the Treaty and the rapid spread of nuclear weapons, a nightmare which would see the Middle East, the world's most unstable region, festooned with the world's most destructive devices. In my view the current British government have been slow to develop ideas and provide international leadership on the reform of the NPT, leaving it until the end of their third term and the approach of the review conference to push any determined initiative of their own. The future of this Treaty also requires the maximum possible effort to persuade or deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability.

Again we have long-argued for a new American opening to Iran that has indeed now been made, but also that it will need to be followed if unsuccessful by far tougher European economic measures to show Iran that there is a serious price to its defiance of the international community. Twenty years from now European sanctions may count for much less, but today they still matter and securing such a policy is one of the highest possible priorities for whoever is the British Foreign Secretary at the end of this year and early next.

The fifth and final theme of a Conservative approach to foreign affairs is that, faced with so many threats to our society and our security, it is essential for us in Britain to uphold our own highest values. I have accepted in this speech that our power to dictate to other countries how they should uphold democracy or human rights may actually diminish over time. In many ways this makes it all the more important for Britain to be among those countries that sets an example that can be inspiring to people across the world who are denied liberty or power over their own lives, just as it may encourage in the right direction those who have that power.

Two hundred years ago, in his most famous and shortest speech, my hero William Pitt The Younger said, "England has saved herself by her exertions and will I trust save Europe by her example". In the future we will have to recognise that if our exertions may not always have the desired effect, our example must never be absent. This means that a British government must always be an advocate for political freedom, human rights in their broadest not just legalistic sense, free trade, and democratic decision-making. We must always understand that terrorists who are motivated by contempt for our society will only be strengthened if we weaken the values that hold it together, a consideration of huge importance when we consider recent allegations of complicity in torture.

Our values also include playing a pre-eminent role in the eradication of poverty and the spread of prosperity to less fortunate nations. We fully support President Obama's vision of engagement in Africa which is measured by "more than just the dollars we spend" but "whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change". We have to work with African countries so that aid and investment are a force for economic growth and political stability rather than a permanent lifeline that just helps the needy scrape by. Our conscience and our common humanity dictate that we must help those at the mercy of disease, conflict and poverty. That is why David Cameron has reaffirmed our commitment to spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on aid by 2013.

However aid should not be the only driver of our policy towards Africa. We must focus on good governance and fostering the democratic institutions - the courts, civil society and police forces - that are the bedrock of more prosperous societies and the resolving of differences without resort to the gun. In this context development, along with effective diplomacy, is one of the tools of conflict prevention and needs to be used more effectively. We will be conscious that relatively small sums of money spent on conflict prevention can avert the need to spend vast sums on intervention or reconstruction aid, and is in alignment with our moral and well as national security duties.

An approach to foreign policy based on British values also means that the work of organisations such as the British Council will remain essential, and that the foreign language services of the BBC should always be promoted and defended. These organisations are not part of our implementing our foreign policy, but they are an important part of Britain's contribution to openness and understanding in world affairs.

These then are the foreign policy priorities that a new Conservative government would bring with it: a major change to our decision-making; the nourishing of the transatlantic alliance; the freshening and deepening of new relationships beyond America and Europe; a determination to assist the reform of international institutions and treaties; and the upholding of values and principles we hold dear here at home.

My argument today has been that it will become more difficult over time for Britain to exert on world affairs the influence which we are used to, but not impossibly difficult to do so if we make the changes and select the priorities of which I have spoken. To do so will be to act not only in our national interest but in the enlightened national interest to which I referred, for we have a responsibility to others as well as ourselves. Britain will not disengage from trying to shape global events. In trying to create and maintain a more peaceful world we will always be at the forefront. But we will so position and prepare ourselves that if the skies darken and new storms arise we will be ready for them.”



The Tories of David Cameron and William Hague have found it necessary to establish an “anti-federal” political group of nationalists in the European Parliament. No wonder, since a Conservative government in the United Kingdom will base its foreign policy on pure nationalism.

When Western influence is set to dwindle, Hague proposes splitting forces by acting alone in the world.

William Hague is not only against the Treaty of Lisbon, but in opposition to the aspirations of the existing Treaty of Nice. The European Union is good for endless expansion, but not much more.

With friends like these, Europe needs no enemies and the USA is left to sink or swim.

Ralf Grahn

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Lisbon Treaty: Åland Islands (July “update”)

Fifteen months have now passed since the Åland Parliament registered the request from the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, to approve the European Union’s Treaty of Lisbon (on 21 April 2008).

This morning, the matter was still lingering in the Legal Committee of the Åland Parliament, which has failed to issue a report for the plenary.

National parliaments in 26 EU member states have approved the reform treaty. Finland has completed its ratification procedure, but the Åland Islands have not resolved if they want the Lisbon Treaty to apply, if it becomes the primary law of the European Union.

A positive vote requires a two thirds majority in the regional parliament, if the matter ever advances that far. (Earlier posts have dealt with the background.)

Ralf Grahn

Sunday 19 July 2009

India and the European Union

India has nearly 1.2 billion people, the European Union almost 0.5 billion.

India has 28 states and 7 territories, the EU has 27 member states.

India has two official languages and more than twenty other official languages at state level. The European Union has 23 official languages.

India has a federal, secular and democratic constitution. The European Union has not.


What do we mean by first world and third world?

Ralf Grahn

Friday 17 July 2009

“EU President” Tony Blair?

Despite Charlemagne’s notebook, the UK government has done European public debate a service by backing Tony Blair for the post of President of the European Council.

Julien Frisch and The European Citizen are among the many who have contributed actively.


European credentials

What has Tony Blair’s done for the evolving core areas of EU action?

1) A European Union speaking with one voice in the world. Moves to achieve a coherent and consistent European common foreign and security policy (CFSP) and common security and defence policy (CSDP), away from solo flying by individual member states (including the UN Security Council, international orgnisations and relations with the USA). A proven commitment to a common European defence, in alliance with NATO, but not subservient to the United States.

2) The Schengen agreement abolishing border controls between the member states.

3) Adoption or at least the clear commitment to adopt the common currency (euro).

4) Justice and home affairs: Full participation in the area of freedom, security and justice.

5) The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

6) Driving force or brake during the treaty reform process of the European Union since the December 2000 European Council in Nice?


European vision

Even if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, the pre-democratic European Union will continue to be a “hobbled giant”. Effective action and democratic legitimacy require profound reform, leading to a union based on its citizens.


Election procedure

Deals behind closed doors are possible only if the members of the European Council feel that EU citizens are not alienated enough from their project.

The British government has promoted an open debate. It is time for the Swedish Council Presidency to set the ground rules for open nominations and public debate on the top posts and between the candidates.

Ralf Grahn

Friday 10 July 2009

Introduction to the EU Council

In a European Union based on the member states, the intergovernmental European Council and the Council, part legislative and part executive, are the most important tandem in the “institutional triangle”, which includes the European Commission and the European Parliament.

For those, who want to know more than most general EU textbooks offer, the Council has published: An introduction to the Council of the European Union (2008; 68 pages).

The Introduction, which rejects the description of the Council as intergovernmental and sees it as a supranational institution, is available on the Council’s web pages and at the EU Bookshop.

The Contents of the Introduction offer a picture of what the publication is about:

Chapter 1 - The Council and the people working in it
A profile

Chapter 2 - The special role of the European Council
The EU’s helmsman

Chapter 3 - The Council at work
The Council as a legislative body

Chapter 4 - In partnership
The Council’s relations with the other European Union institutions and bodies

Chapter 5 - Promoting prosperity and preserving peace
The Council’s role in external relations

Chapter 6 - Supporting growth and employment
The Council and economic policy

Chapter 7 - Establishing an area of freedom, security and justice
The Council’s role in justice and home affairs

Chapter 8 - Looking to the future


As a public relations brochure, the Introduction to the Council of the European Union is somewhat Panglossian in style, but it presents the facts correctly and the language is accessible for general readers.

Ralf Grahn

To the leaders of Europe

Would you like the government in Iran to be based on free and fair elections?

Do you envy the strength of the United States in the world?

Do you find it natural that India is a democracy?

Would human rights and democracy be beneficial to China?

If you answer yes to one or more questions, why haven’t you made the European Union a democracy instead of a mere exporter of democracy?

Ralf Grahn

Thursday 9 July 2009

Barroso officially nominated

When the European Council on 18 to 19 June 2009 put forward José Manuel Barroso as the intended nominee for the post of President of the Commission, this blog wondered why the heads of state or government did not make an official nomination, why the European Parliament should vote on an unofficial proposal and what the European leaders hoped to gain by delaying the nomination for a few weeks.

Typically, no reasons have been given, but today the Council has issued a press release on a written procedure:

“Council decides to nominate Mr. José Manuel Durão Barroso as the person it intends to appoint as President of the Commission for 2009-2014

Following the European Council on 18 and 19 June 2009, the Council, in the composition of Heads of State or Government, adopted today a decision nominating Mr. José Manuel Durão Barroso as the person the Council intends to appoint as President of the Commission for the period from 1 November 2009 to 31 October 2014.

The decision will be forwarded to the European Parliament.” (Brussels, 9 July 2009 11850/09) (Presse 212)

Sweden’s EU Minister Cecilia Malmström has commented in positive terms on her blog.


Meanwhile, the political groups in the European Parliament had told the Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt that the EP vote on Barroso will take place later than the July 2009 inaugural session.

Despite the timing, after the tripartite agreement between the political groups of the European People’s Party (EPP), the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (PASD) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) the road seems to be clear for a reappointment of Barroso, as reported by Jean Quatremer on Coulisses de Bruxelles.


This will intensify the efforts by the national governments to propose members for the next Commission, if they have not done so, and to jockey for important posts for the next five years, although it is still unclear if the new Commission will be confirmed under Lisbon of Nice Treaty rules.

Ralf Grahn

EU Council’s Rules of Procedure

After the blog posts on Article 207 TEC and Article 240 TFEU, as well as on Swedish openness and the Lisbon Treaty, Information about EU Council: Swedish Presidency and first aid and Free EU Council publications, we turn to more detailed provisions.

While we are waiting for the Swedish EU Council Presidency to publish proposals for the new Rules of Procedure of the Council and other decisions concerning the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon, we look at the existing Council’s Rules of Procedure.


Council’s Rules of Procedure

Detailed rules on the Council of the European Union are given in Council Decision 2006/683/EC, Euratom of 15 September 2006 adopting the Council's Rules of Procedure, originally published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 16.10.2006 L 285/47.

The latest consolidated version of the Council’s Rules of Procedure is of 1 January 2009.



The headlines of the Articles and the Annexes offer a picture of the contents of the Council’s Rules of Procedure:

Article 1
Notice and venue of meetings

Article 2
Configurations of the Council, role of the General Affairs and External Relations Council and programming

Article 3

Article 4
Representation of a Council member unable to attend

Article 5

Article 6
Professional secrecy and production of documents in legal proceedings

Article 7
Cases where the Council acts in its legislative capacity

Article 8
Council deliberations open to the public and public debates

Article 9
Making public votes, explanations of votes and minutes

Article 10
Public access to Council documents

Article 11
Voting arrangements and quorum

Article 12
Ordinary written procedure and silence procedure

Article 13

Article 14
Deliberations and decisions on the basis of documents and drafts drawn up in the languages provided for by the language rules in force

Article 15
Signing of acts

Article 16
Absence of the possibility to participate in the vote

Article 17
Publication of acts in the Official Journal

Article 18
Notification of acts

Article 19
Coreper, committees and working parties

Article 20
The Presidency and the businesslike conduct of discussions

Article 21
Reports from committees and working parties

Article 22
Quality of drafting

Article 23
The Secretary-General and the General Secretariat

Article 24

Article 25
Duties as depositary of agreements and conventions

Article 26
Representation before the European Parliament

Article 27
Provisions concerning the form of acts

Article 28
Correspondence addressed to the Council




(1. In application of the following provisions of the Rules of Procedure and for
decisions in respect of which, under the Treaties, members of the Council or
of Coreper may not participate in the vote, account is not to be taken of votes
by such members:)




Next, we are going to turn to Coreper, then the General Secretariat and finally publications about the Council of the European Union.

Ralf Grahn

Free EU Council publications

The Council of the European Union publishes a number of useful publications on the web page Free Council publications.

Here are a few examples of fairly recent titles:

ESDP Newsletter – Issue 7 Winter 2009 (available in English and French)

Annual report from the Council to the European Parliament on the main aspects and basic choices of the CFSP – 2008 (available in 22 languages)

Council Annual report on access to documents - 2008 (available in 22 languages)

EU Guidelines Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law - March 2009 (available in English and French)

EU Annual Report on Human Rights 2008 (available in English, French and German)

The European Union Strategy against the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (available in English and French)

Mainstreaming Human Rights and Gender into European Security and Defence Policy (in English)

Extract from the Interinstitutional Directory - January 2008 (in English and French)

An introduction to the Council of the European Union - 2008 (available in 22 languages)

THE AFRICA-EUROPEAN UNION STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP, June 2008 (available in English, French and Portuguese)

Climate change and international security (available in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish)

Public Register of Authentic Identity and Travel Documents Online (available in 22 languages)

The European Union and the International Criminal Court - February 2008 (in English)

Information handbook of the Council of the European Union (in 22 languages)


You can download the publications (pdf files) instantly for free, but most of them are on offer as hard copies as well and can be delivered by post.

Ralf Grahn

Information about EU Council: Swedish Presidency and first aid

For the intrepid ones, who want to follow the work of the Council of the European Union, the Swedish Council Presidency offers the best website to date, and you can sign up for a continuing stream of news. The web pages are available in English, French and Swedish.


Council website

Presidencies come and go, but the Council remains. Long before the number of official languages rose to 23, the Council and the Court of Justice turned to an additional one to name their websites: Latin.

Thus, the web portal of the Council is Consilium and the homepage of the Court is called Curia.

The Council’s homepage is loaded with the latest news, such as conclusions by the Council configurations, but it also offers a number of thematic links or shortcuts to various policy areas.

Even if the Council produces about a hundred documents a day, one gets the feeling that final decisions are the strong point – after the fact.

The processes and real debates within the Council remain opaque, so it remains like a darkroom of old times. You find the Commission proposal, if there is one, and you see the final result, but despite deliberation in public the forces at work are hidden from public view, or they require dedicated research.


First aid

Officially, the Council of the European Union is dedicated to openness.

As a first aid to students and others, who want to find documents or other information, the Council has published a leaflet with systematic information:

How to get information on the activities of the Council of the European Union (latest update January 2009).

The useful brochure offers brief information and links to the Council’s website, public deliberations and debates, news, access to public documents, enquiries about the Council and visits to the Council.

Ralf Grahn

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Swedish openness and Lisbon Treaty

Preparing the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon, in case it enters into force, is going to be a real test for the vaunted openness of the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

There are important new posts to fill: the President of the European Council, the High Representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy (and Vice-President of the Commission) and the Secretary-General of the Council. In addition, the next President of the Commission needs to be nominated officially, as well as the members of the European Commission.

(The European Parliament seems to have decided on its Presidents for the next five years without bothering with public discussion of engaging the EU citizens.)

In addition to the candidacies and nominations, decisions are needed on the tasks and benefits of the new offices. Preparation is needed for implementing decisions, including new or adapted Rules of Procedure for the Council.

With the exception of a few ‘ad hoc’ decisions by the European Council on the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty (Irish guarantees, composition of the European Parliament etc.) no progress report has surfaced since the Slovenian Council Presidency and no proposals have been tabled for public discussion.

There have been no open nominations of candidates for the new top jobs and consequently no real public discussion about their merits (only speculation fueled by leaks).

The Government of Sweden has a golden opportunity to open up the procedures to the public and to engage in real discussion about the coming proposals, breaking with the catastrophic habit of stitch-ups behind closed doors.

The citizens of the European Union have a right to expect something better than the old ways from the Swedish Council Presidency, which already has managed to produce the best Presidency website in EU history.

Ralf Grahn

EU Council: COREPER and General Secretariat (240 TFEU)

The original Treaty of Lisbon replaced the text of Article 207 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) by a new Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Hence, the only difference between the original ToL and the consolidated TFEU is that the provision was renumbered, becoming Article 240 TFEU (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/154):

Article 240 TFEU
(ex Article 207 TEC)

1. A committee consisting of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States shall be responsible for preparing the work of the Council and for carrying out the tasks assigned to it by the latter. The Committee may adopt procedural decisions in cases provided for in the Council's Rules of Procedure.

2. The Council shall be assisted by a General Secretariat, under the responsibility of a Secretary-General appointed by the Council.

The Council shall decide on the organisation of the General Secretariat by a simple majority.

3. The Council shall act by a simple majority regarding procedural matters and for the adoption of its Rules of Procedure.



We note the following differences between Article 207 TEC and Article 240 TFEU:

• The Permanent Representatives are now described as representing the Governments of the Member States (instead of the Member States).
• There are small changes to the wording in the French and German treaty versions with regard to the responsibilities, but they are not material. The English version replaces ‘by the Council’ with ‘by the latter’.
• The top of the General Secretariat is reorganised by the Treaty of Lisbon. The High Representative becomes the chair of the Council configuration Foreign Affairs Council as well as one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission. The Secretary-General of the Council (Secretariat) becomes a separate function. The Deputy Secretary-General is not mentioned specifically. The internal organisation, procedural matters and the Rules of Procedure will be decided by a simple majority. (There has been even less public discussion about the appointment of the new extremely influential position of Secretary-General than about the other top positions of the European Union.)
• The Article 207(3) TEC basic provision on access to documents has been removed from Article 240 TFEU. The corresponding provisions are found in the amended Article 16(8) TEU concerning the Council and Article 15(3) TFEU, with general application.


In the next posts we are going to look at preparatory work concerning the Lisbon Treaty, available information about the Council, as well as details concerning COREPER, the General Secretariat and the Council’s Rules of Procedure.

Ralf Grahn

EU Council: Permanent Representatives and General Secretariat (207 TEC)

The EU Ambassadors of the member states and their deputies form the crucial link between the national capitals and the European Union preparing the ground for decisions by the Council. COREPER prepares and coordinates preparatory work and executes Council decisions.

The Council is assisted by a General Secretariat, and more detailed rules are laid down in the Council’s Rules of Procedure.


Current TEC

The Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the member states is usually mentioned under its French acronym COREPER (Comité des représentants permanents). In a treaty based European Union joining member states, the EU Ambassadors and their substitutes constitute the crucial link between preparatory committees and working groups and the Council.

The Council is assisted by the General Secretariat.

The Council’s Rules of Procedure lay down more detailed rules.

These and the main provisions on access to Council documents are currently set out in Article 207 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) (in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, OJEU 29.12.2006 C 321 E/137-138):

Article 207 TEC

1. A committee consisting of the Permanent Representatives of the Member States shall be responsible for preparing the work of the Council and for carrying out the tasks assigned to it by the Council. The Committee may adopt procedural decisions in cases provided for in the Council's Rules of Procedure.

2. The Council shall be assisted by a General Secretariat, under the responsibility of a Secretary‑General, High Representative for the common foreign and security policy, who shall be assisted by a Deputy Secretary-General responsible for the running of the General Secretariat. The Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General shall be appointed by the Council acting by a qualified majority.

The Council shall decide on the organisation of the General Secretariat.

3. The Council shall adopt its Rules of Procedure.

For the purpose of applying Article 255(3), the Council shall elaborate in these Rules the conditions under which the public shall have access to Council documents. For the purpose of this paragraph, the Council shall define the cases in which it is to be regarded as acting in its legislative capacity, with a view to allowing greater access to documents in those cases, while at the same time preserving the effectiveness of its decision-making process. In any event, when the Council acts in its legislative capacity, the results of votes and explanations of vote as well as statements in the minutes shall be made public.


Original Lisbon Treaty

Article 2, point 192 of the original Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) replaced Article 207 TEC by a new Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (OJEU 17.12.2007 C 306/105):

192) Article 207 shall be replaced by the following:

‘Article 207

1. A committee consisting of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States shall be responsible for preparing the work of the Council and for carrying out the tasks assigned to it by the latter. The Committee may adopt procedural decisions in cases provided for in the Council's Rules of Procedure.

2. The Council shall be assisted by a General Secretariat, under the responsibility of a Secretary-General appointed by the Council.

The Council shall decide on the organisation of the General Secretariat by a simple majority.

3. The Council shall act by a simple majority regarding procedural matters and for the adoption of its Rules of Procedure.’.


The next posts look at the consolidated Lisbon Treaty and some detailed provisions on COREPER, the General Secretariat and access to documents, as well as information about Council activities.

Ralf Grahn

Tuesday 7 July 2009

EU Council: Voting on behalf of another member

A member of the Council of the European Union can transfer his vote to another member.


Current TEC

Article 206 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) offers a Council member the opportunity to be represented by another member of the Council of the European Union (consolidated version of the treaties in force, OJEU 29.12.2006 C 321 E/137):

Article 206 TEC

Where a vote is taken, any Member of the Council may also act on behalf of not more than one other member.


Original Lisbon Treaty

Point 191 of the original Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) amended Article 205 TEC and point 192 replaced the wording of Article 207 TEC, so no specific amendments were made to Article 206 TEC (OJEU 17.12.2007 C 306/104-105.


Consolidated Lisbon Treaty

There were no horizontal amendments either, so the wording of the provision is unchanged. After renumbering it became Article 239 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in the consolidated version of the Treaty of Lisbon (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/154):

Article 239 TFEU
(ex Article 206 TEC)

Where a vote is taken, any Member of the Council may also act on behalf of not more than one other member.


Does it matter?

Article 11(3) of the Council’s Rules of Procedure (consolidated version of 1 January 2009) reiterates the wording of Article 206 TEC, without adding anything.

According to Article 203 TEC, the Council shall consist of a representative of each member state at ministerial level, authorised to commit the government of that member state.

The contents of Article 16(2) of the amended Treaty on European Union (TEU), in the consolidated Lisbon Treaty, are practically the same:

“The Council shall consist of a representative of each Member State at ministerial level, who may
commit the government of the Member State in question and cast its vote.”

In other words, a representative at ministerial level may transfer his vote to another member of the Council.

The procedure offers the possibility to reach a unanimous decision, if a member is unable to attend, or to reach the needed majority for a decision.

The maximum possible would be 13 member states transferring their votes to as many other members.



Sometimes a government minister is absent, and a high-ranking official, such as a Secretary of State or the EU ambassador (permanent representative) participates in the deliberations, but the wording of the provisions seems to exclude the right to vote.

Article 4 of the Council’s Rules of Procedure provides for representation:

Article 4
Representation of a Council member unable to attend

Subject to the provisions of Article 11 on the delegation of voting rights, a member of the Council who is prevented from attending a meeting may arrange to be represented.


If I remember correctly, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Jacques Chirac made a show of Franco-German amity at one meeting of the European Council, when Schröder left the meeting to attend to domestic politics and said that he would be represented by the French President.

(I failed in my modest efforts to find confirmation, but perhaps some reader of this blog can add a reference.)

Ralf Grahn

Monday 6 July 2009

EU: Qualified majority voting (QMV)

The treaty reform process started in December 2000 in Nice, but the voting rules of the Council of the European Union are going to take full effect only in April 2017 – if the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force.

It is hardly the overpowering strength of the European Union we as EU citizens have to fear, but its impotence.


Current treaty

The member states have been accorded votes in the Council roughly in line with their population numbers. Article 205 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) is found in the latest consolidated version of the treaties, published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 29.12.2006 C 321 E/136-137.

A few days later, on 1 January 2007, Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union. But the amendment of Article 205 TEC by the 2003 Act of Accession, and the situation after the entry of Bulgaria and Romania is indicated only by a footnote and presented in an Appendix to the consolidated treaty (starting on page 325).

By inserting the changes, we present Article 205 TEC as it is in force since 1 January 2007:

Article 205 TEC

1. Save as otherwise provided in this Treaty, the Council shall act by a majority of its Members.

2. Where the Council is required to act by a qualified majority, the votes of its Members shall be weighted as follows:

Belgium 12‘
Bulgaria 10
Czech Republic 12
Denmark 7
Germany 29
Estonia 4
Greece 12
Spain 27
France 29
Ireland 7
Italy 29
Cyprus 4
Latvia 4
Lithuania 7
Luxembourg 4
Hungary 12
Malta 3
Netherlands 13
Austria 10
Poland 27
Portugal 12
Romania 14’.
Slovenia 4
Slovakia 7
Finland 7
Sweden 10
United Kingdom 29

Acts of the Council shall require for their adoption at least 255 votes in favour cast by a majority of the members where this Treaty requires them to be adopted on a proposal from the Commission.

In other cases, for their adoption acts of the Council shall require at least 255 votes in favour, cast by at least two thirds of the members.

3. Abstentions by Members present in person or represented shall not prevent the adoption by the Council of acts which require unanimity.

4. When a decision is to be adopted by the Council by a qualified majority, a member of the Council may request verification that the Member States constituting the qualified majority represent at least 62% of the total population of the Union. If that condition is shown not to have been met, the decision in question shall not be adopted.


Original Lisbon Treaty

The original Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the heads of state or government on 13 December 2007. It contains horizontal (general) amendments, i.e. terms used throughout the treaties, and amendments specific to each Article. The Lisbon Treaty was published in the OJEU 17.12.2007 C 306.

The specific amendments to Article 205 TEC, to become the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) were (OJEU 17.12.2007 C 306/104-105):
191) Article 205 shall be amended as follows:

(a) paragraphs 1 and 2 shall be replaced by the following:

‘1. Where it is required to act by a simple majority, the Council shall act by a majority of its component members.

2. By way of derogation from Article 9 C(4) of the Treaty on European Union, as from 1 November 2014 and subject to the provisions laid down in the Protocol on transitional provisions, where the Council does not act on a proposal from the Commission or from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the qualified majority shall be defined as at least 72 % of the members of the Council, representing Member States comprising at least 65 % of the population of the Union.

3. As from 1 November 2014 and subject to the provisions laid down in the Protocol on transitional provisions, in cases where, under the Treaties, not all the members of the Council participate in voting, a qualified majority shall be defined as follows:

(a) A qualified majority shall be defined as at least 55 % of the members of the Council representing the participating Member States, comprising at least 65 % of the population of these States.

A blocking minority must include at least the minimum number of Council members representing more than 35 % of the population of the participating Member States, plus one member, failing which the qualified majority shall be deemed attained;

(b) By way of derogation from point (a), where the Council does not act on a proposal from the Commission or from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the qualified majority shall be defined as at least 72 % of the members of the Council representing the participating Member States, comprising at least 65 % of the population of these States.’.

(b) paragraph 4 shall be deleted and paragraph 3 shall be renumbered 4.



We have to wait until 1 November 2014 for the new rules on qualified majority voting to take effect. Even then they are subject to further delays under the Protocol on transitional provisions.


Consolidated Lisbon Treaty

After a few months and the publication of a number of “private” consolidations, the Council graciously published a readable (consolidated) version of the Lisbon Treaty, first on its web pages in April and then in the Official Journal, on Europe Day 2008. In part, the amended Article 205 TEC became Article 238 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/153-154):

Article 238 TFEU
(ex Article 205(1) and (2), TEC)

1. Where it is required to act by a simple majority, the Council shall act by a majority of its component members.

2. By way of derogation from Article 16(4) of the Treaty on European Union, as from 1 November 2014 and subject to the provisions laid down in the Protocol on transitional provisions, where the Council does not act on a proposal from the Commission or from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the qualified majority shall be defined as at least 72 % of the members of the Council, representing Member States comprising at least 65 % of the population of the Union.

3. As from 1 November 2014 and subject to the provisions laid down in the Protocol on transitional provisions, in cases where, under the Treaties, not all the members of the Council participate in voting, a qualified majority shall be defined as follows:

(a) A qualified majority shall be defined as at least 55 % of the members of the Council representing the participating Member States, comprising at least 65 % of the population of these States.

A blocking minority must include at least the minimum number of Council members representing more than 35 % of the population of the participating Member States, plus one member, failing which the qualified majority shall be deemed attained;

(b) By way of derogation from point (a), where the Council does not act on a proposal from the Commission or from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the qualified majority shall be defined as at least 72 % of the members of the Council representing the participating Member States, comprising at least 65 % of the population of these States.

4. Abstentions by Members present in person or represented shall not prevent the adoption by the
Council of acts which require unanimity.


Article 16(4) and (5) TEU

The basic provisions on voting in the Council are paragraphs 4 and 5 of Article 16 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), presented here as a reminder (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/24):

Article 16(4) and (5) TEU

4. As from 1 November 2014, a qualified majority shall be defined as at least 55 % of the members of the Council, comprising at least fifteen of them and representing Member States comprising at least 65 % of the population of the Union.

A blocking minority must include at least four Council members, failing which the qualified majority shall be deemed attained.

The other arrangements governing the qualified majority are laid down in Article 238(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. The transitional provisions relating to the definition of the qualified majority which shall be applicable until 31 October 2014 and those which shall be applicable from 1 November 2014 to 31 March 2017 are laid down in the Protocol on transitional provisions.


Protocol on transitional provisions

Protocol (No 36) on transitional provisions is an illustration of treaty reform, which requires unanimous agreement between the member states and ratification by every member state. Three different stages are distinguished.

1) From the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon until 31 October 2014 the current rules on voting remain in force.
2) In principle, the Lisbon Treaty rules on qualified majority voting (QMV) are in effect between 1 November 2014 and 31 March 2017, subject to a request by a member of the Council to apply the old rules.
3) From 1 April 2017 the intended rules of the Lisbon Treaty become operational.

Protocol (No 36) on transitional provisions (excerpt; OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/322-323):



WHEREAS, in order to organise the transition from the institutional provisions of the Treaties applicable prior to the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon to the provisions contained in that Treaty, it is necessary to lay down transitional provisions,

HAVE AGREED UPON the following provisions, which shall be annexed to the Treaty on European Union, to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and to the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community:

Article 1

In this Protocol, the words ‘the Treaties’ shall mean the Treaty on European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community.



Article 3

1. In accordance with Article 16(4) of the Treaty on European Union, the provisions of that paragraph and of Article 238(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union relating to the definition of the qualified majority in the European Council and the Council shall take effect on 1 November 2014.

2. Between 1 November 2014 and 31 March 2017, when an act is to be adopted by qualified majority, a member of the Council may request that it be adopted in accordance with the qualified majority as defined in paragraph 3. In that case, paragraphs 3 and 4 shall apply.

3. Until 31 October 2014, the following provisions shall remain in force, without prejudice to the second subparagraph of Article 235(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

For acts of the European Council and of the Council requiring a qualified majority, members' votes shall be weighted as follows:

Belgium 12
Bulgaria 10
Czech Republic 12
Denmark 7
Germany 29
Estonia 4
Ireland 7
Greece 12
Spain 27
France 29
Italy 29
Cyprus 4
Latvia 4
Lithuania 7
Luxembourg 4
Hungary 12
Malta 3
Netherlands 13
Austria 10
Poland 27
Portugal 12
Romania 14
Slovenia 4
Slovakia 7
Finland 7
Sweden 10
United Kingdom 29

Acts shall be adopted if there are at least 255 votes in favour representing a majority of the members where, under the Treaties, they must be adopted on a proposal from the Commission. In other cases decisions shall be adopted if there are at least 255 votes in favour representing at least two thirds of the members.

A member of the European Council or the Council may request that, where an act is adopted by the European Council or the Council by a qualified majority, a check is made to ensure that the Member States comprising the qualified majority represent at least 62 % of the total population of the Union. If that proves not to be the case, the act shall not be adopted.

4. Until 31 October 2014, the qualified majority shall, in cases where, under the Treaties, not all the members of the Council participate in voting, namely in the cases where reference is made to the qualified majority as defined in Article 238(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, be defined as the same proportion of the weighted votes and the same proportion of the number of the Council members and, if appropriate, the same percentage of the population of the Member States concerned as laid down in paragraph 3 of this Article.



Hopefully the rest of the world is decent enough to wait for Europe to get its act together.

Ralf Grahn

Sunday 5 July 2009

EU humanitarian aid: ECHO Annual Report 2008

The European Commission has published the Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid - (ECHO) Annual Report 2008 (Brussels, 1.7.2009 COM(2009) 290 final).

The Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid (DG ECHO) is the service of the European Commission responsible for providing humanitarian assistance to the people affected by conflicts or disasters, both natural and man-made, in third countries.

The European Union is the largest single donor in operations providing assistance, relief and protection to populations in third countries affected by humanitarian crises. DG ECHO does not implement assistance programmes itself.

The 11 page report offers an overview of the humanitarian aid given by the European Union.

The report is accompanied by the document SEC(2009) 825, which has not been posted among the preparatory documents (SEC). I found neither the latest report nor the SEC document on ECHO’s web page for Annual reports. (Strangely, no SEC document has been posted under preparatory acts since 21 May 2009.)

Ralf Grahn

EU codification and consolidation: Euro introduction

On the European Union’s portal for legal information, Eur-Lex, there is a useful sidebar with Preparatory acts.

It leads us to the reports and proposals of the Commission – COM documents – and to the accompanying SEC documents (often with more detailed background information).



One way to simplify EU legislation is by replacing old legal acts, amended a few times (maximum ten), by new codified versions. Codification leads to a new act, although the exercise is technical. It does not change the substance of the original act, as amended, so the procedure is expedited.

A recent example of a proposal to codify EU legislation is the Commission’s Proposal for a Council Regulation (EC) No …/… of […] on the introduction of the euro (Codified version) (Brussels, 1.7.2009 COM(2009) 323 final). Procedure number 2009/0083 (CNS).

The proposal offers a clear example of the codification procedure.



Eur-Lex often offers an unofficial consolidated (updated) version of a law. By using the simple search function for the legal act in question – in this case Regulation 974/98 – by year (1998) and number 974, the Bibliographic notice shows the existing consolidated versions.

In this case we find that the latest consolidated version is of 1 January 2009.

Ralf Grahn

Saturday 4 July 2009

EU: Consumer protection cooperation

The Regulation 2006/2004 on Consumer Protection Cooperation (the "CPC Regulation") was adopted on 27 October 2004 and entered into force on 29 December 2006 following two years of intensive preparatory work by the Commission and Member States.

Regulation 2006/2004 lays down the conditions under which the competent authorities in the Member States designated as responsible for the enforcement of the laws that protect consumers' interests shall cooperate with each other and with the Commission in order to ensure compliance with those laws and the smooth functioning of the internal market and in order to enhance the protection of consumers' economic interests (Article 1).

The latest consolidated version of Regulation 2006/2004 is of 19 December 2007, but the Regulation has since been amended by Common Position (EC) No 16/2009.

The Commission has now issued a report on the first two years of application of Regulation 2006/2004:

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 October 2004 on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws (the Regulation on consumer protection cooperation) (Brussels, 2.7.2009 COM(2009) 336 final).


The Commission concludes that the cooperation with and between national consumer protection authorities has been beneficial, but further measures are needed to make it more effective and efficient.

The 23 page Report includes a statistical annex.

Ralf Grahn

Vacation or business: Travelling in Europe 2009

Whether you are heading for your vacation destination or travelling for business purposes, the 11 page brochure Travelling in Europe 2009 is worth a glance. Available at the EU Bookshop.

Travelling in Europe 2009 offers brief information about needed documents (Schengen), money (the euro), approximate exchange rates, cash withdrawals, bank transfers, shopping (tobacco and alcohol), consumer protection, driving licence, car insurance, driving safety, air passenger rights, airport security, rail transport, access to healthcare and the European health insurance card, travel insurance, medicines, immunisation, bathing water, languages, country codes, mobile phones (roaming), postage stamps, electricity, tourist information, weather, time zones (summer time), pets, emergency number 112, national tourist information sites, EU information and basic statistics.

The brochure serves both EU citizens and visitors from third countries.

Indirectly, Travelling in Europe 2009 gives a number of answers to the question: What has Europe ever done for me?

Ralf Grahn

EU: Consumers in Europe 2009

The 2009 edition of the Eurostat publication Consumers in Europe is available at the EU Bookshop.

The abstract of the 382 page Consumers in Europe 2009 offers a view of the contents of this fourth edition, useful for businesses and policy makers:

The 2009 edition of Consumers in Europe presents a comprehensive set of data and related information concerning consumer markets and consumer protection issues within the European Union. The aim of the publication is to bring together the most relevant and useful information for the evaluation and development of consumer policy, not only as a tool for policy-makers, but also for those interested in end-markets and consumer affairs, such as representative organisations, public authorities, or suppliers of goods and services. Much of the data that has been used will feed into the consumer markets scoreboard which has been designed to monitor outcomes in the single market and to make European Union policy in this area more responsive to the expectations and concerns of consumers.

The publication starts with an overview of the single market from the consumer’s perspective, presenting a profi le of European consumers and the retail network, as well as issues relating to access and choice, before looking at key indicators for consumption and prices. The overview also presents information on consumer satisfaction, the quality and safety of goods and services, as well consumer representation and protection.

The remainder of the publication is devoted to 12 specific consumer markets (for example, food and non-alcoholic beverages, housing, transport, or recreation and culture); each chapter covers one top-level heading within the classification of individual consumption by purpose (COICOP), the main classification used to provide detailed data on consumer prices, price levels and consumption expenditure. The chapters are structured in a similar manner to the overview, in an attempt to present harmonised data and a range of key indicators that may be compared across the publication.


Consumer policy

The introduction on Consumer policy (from page 11) presents the Commission’s main objectives concerning consumers:

• to empower EU consumers so they make more informed choices and thus boost competition and competitiveness;
• to enhance EU consumers’ welfare in terms of price, choice, quality, diversity, affordability and safety;
• to protect consumers eff ectively from the serious risks and threats that they cannot tackle as individuals.

The publication then presents the principal aims of the EU Consumer Policy Strategy 2007-2013 (COM(2007) 99 final), as well as monitoring and consumer protection.


12 consumer markets

After an overview, a considerable part of the publication is devoted to 12 specific consumer markets:

• food and nonalcoholic beverages;
• alcoholic beverages and tobacco;
• clothing and footwear;
• housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels;
• furnishings, household equipment and maintenance;
• health;
• transport;
• communications;
• recreation and culture;
• education; hotels,
• cafes and restaurants;
• miscellaneous goods and services)

Ralf Grahn

Friday 3 July 2009

European Union: Public access to documents

The Commission has published a report on public access to documents: Report from the Commission on the application in 2008 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (Brussels, 2.7.2009 COM(2009) 331 final).

The legislative process to amend Regulation 1409/2001 continues, so the report has a certain relevance to the discussions in the Council and the European Parliament. The report contains references to the cases handled by the European Ombudsman and decided by the Court of first instance. It contains a summary of reasons clarified by the Court of first instance.

A statistical annex concludes the 18 page report on a subject relevant to openness and transparency in the institutions of the European Union.

Ralf Grahn

European Union: Renewable energy legislation

The latest thematic file on EU legislation over at the legal portal Eur-Lex is Renewable energy (posted 26 June 2009).

Overview of EU law

Thematic files are collections of legal documents on specific fields of EU activity (legislative instruments, preparatory acts, case law, parliamentary questions, etc.).

The idea is not to be exhaustive but rather to group together the most relevant current legislation on the subject in question.

You can consult related acts and/or acts amending original acts in the bibliographic entry for each document.


The thematic files are handy references for everyone interested in a particular policy area.

Ralf Grahn

Ireland’s Future in the European Union

Ireland’s Future is a civil society group explaining what the Treaty of Lisbon is about, by explaining the facts and fighting misunderstandings.

The Quick Guide – Lisbon 2 and Ireland in the EU (10 June 2009; 28 pages) offers:

Ten Reasons for Supporting Lisbon 2

Why Do We Need the Lisbon Treaty?

Guarantees to Address the Concerns Irish Voters Expressed about the Lisbon Treaty in June 2008

Five Negative Consequences for Ireland of a Second Rejection of the Lisbon Treaty

Ireland’s Economic Recovery Will Be Greatly Helped by a YES to the Second Lisbon Treaty Referendum

The EU is a New and Unique Way of Governing Ourselves

A Strong EU is Vital to a Better Future for Ireland

The 4 Main Reform Provisions of the Lisbon Treaty

Common Misconceptions about the Lisbon Treaty

Irish Neutrality is a Neutrality of Responsibilities

Article 16c of the Lisbon Treaty Places our Values at the Centre of the EU

What Has the EU Done for Me?

About Ireland’s


New developments

The Treaty of Lisbon was agreed between 27 governments. It has been approved by 26 national parliaments.

Since the publication of the Quick Guide, the EU leaders have repeated their assurance that Ireland and all other EU member states will retain a Commissioner, if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force.

In addition, the EU partners have agreed on the detailed guarantees to Ireland, which clarify the meaning of the Lisbon Treaty, in questions where the first referendum campaign sowed doubts about the true meaning.

In these respects, Ireland has achieved a better deal and a clearer deal, even if the text of the Lisbon Treaty remains the same.

This week the Lisbon Treaty was declared compatible with the German Basic Law (Constitution) by the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. In Germany and other member states of the European Union improved scrutiny of European Union affairs will be on the agenda of national parliaments.

The Quick Guide is a comprehensive view of main points of the Lisbon Treaty and especially Irish concerns about its contents. The text is aimed at the general public of voting age, so it is not overly technical.

With the latest developments, an updated version would be an option. At the same time a few linguist errors and some simplistic statements could be corrected. A link to the consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty would come in handy (and the references could be to the readable version of the amending treaty).

Ralf Grahn