Monday 26 October 2009

David Miliband: EU Foreign Policy After Lisbon

Today, David Miliband, UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, spoke on EU foreign policy after Lisbon, at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS):

“So the choice for Europe is simple. Get our act together and make the EU a leader on the world stage; or become spectators in a G2 world shaped by the US and China. But I think that the choice for the UK is also simply stated: we can lead a strong European foreign policy or – lost in hubris, nostalgia or xenophobia - watch our influence in the world wane.”


UK approach

Ahead of the Treaty of Lisbon, the UK (Labour) government informed Parliament and the public by publishing “The British Approach to the European Union Intergovernmental Conference, July 2007” (Command paper 7174).

With regard to the common foreign and security policy, the UK government stated:

“The Reform Treaty will affirm that CFSP will remain an intergovernmental process, distinct from other policy areas. Unanimity in decision-making will remain the norm (i.e. the UK will hold a veto). CFSP provisions will also remain in the Treaty on European Union. The IGC Mandate contains a declaration confirming that the provisions on CFSP will not affect the responsibilities of the Member States, as they currently exist, for the formation and conduct of their foreign policy, or of their national representations in third countries and international organisations.”

The British government underlined its independence and veto powers with regard to the common security and defence policy, as well:

“The Reform Treaty will meet UK objectives on the development of a flexible, militarily robust and NATO-friendly ESDP. The Reform Treaty will also preserve the principle of unanimity (and therefore the UK veto) for ESDP policy decisions and for initiating missions, and will maintain the prerogatives of Member States for defence and security issues (in the same way as it does for foreign policy).”

The government’s presentation of the President of the European Council did not exactly spell out that the choice of Tony Blair would become the make or break issue for the European Union’s future in the world:

“The President will chair the European Council, drive forward its work, ensure its preparation and continuity on the basis of the work of the General Affairs Council, and facilitate cohesion and consensus. The President will also have a role in the most highlevel aspects of the EU’s external relations.”



The government of the United Kingdom seems to have been quite happy for the EU’s foreign, security and defence policy to remain intergovernmental, primarily based on unanimous decisions, retained veto powers for every member state and minimal scrutiny by the directly elected European Parliament.

Miliband appears to reason that you first build a house of cards, but suddenly you need a traffic-stopping personality to counter the structural flaws.

Admittedly, Miliband’s approach is more constructive than that of the Conservative Party, which officially continues to reject the Treaty of Lisbon, democratically approved in 27 member states.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. (Update) Link to the IISS.


  1. Why do you keep attacking Britain here?! We haven't done anything wrong, or at least nothing worse than many other Member States! Attack Valcav Klaus and the Czech Republic instead!!

  2. James,

    What I point out here is the structural weakness of the European Union, most certainly in the area of foreign, security and defence policy.

    Few areas would more obviously belong at a federal level, if the European states designed their union rationally.

    The UK has, more energetically than most member states, underlined its commitment to unanimity, veto powers and an independent foreign policy, through the whole treaty reform process.

    Through the infested atmosphere, Britain is also the greatest political problem of the European Union, potentially. Thus, worth more ink than other member states.

    David Miliband and Tony Blair have been members of UK governments during these times, so they are more than bystanders.

    Miliband's speech accepted all the structural weaknesses of EU foreign policy, although he wants to present a somewhat rare British positive vision and a constructive approach. This I have complimented, and I have called Miliband promising.

    If you read my posts, you notice a clear distinction between criticism directed at different actors within the UK: Labour government, Conservative Party, UKIP, BNP, public opinion as gleaned from British press, bllogs and comments sections...

    Few have written more or more clearly about President Vaclav Klaus, but there has been nothing new to say in a few days. The Swedish Council Presidency, the Czech government and Prague Castle are still in intensive discussions about the text to present to the EU leaders, Europe Minister Cecilia Malmström said yesterday evening; but for now there is nothing to tell.


    Do you think that the UK can work in the European Union (possibly under a Conservative government) as a constructive and contributing member, and will it?

    Morally, can Britain even stay an EU member without cleaning the air with regard to membership (In or Out)?


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