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23 January 2021
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The European Union has more influence on the world stage when
it speaks with a single voice in international affairs such as trade
negotiations. To help achieve this, and to raise the EU's international
profile, in 2009 the European Council acquired a permanent President and the
first High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
(a) Setting up a european diplomatic
The common foreign and security policy (CFSP) and the
European security and defence policy (ESDP), define the EU's main foreign
policy tasks. These policies were introduced by the Treaties of Maastricht
(1992), Amsterdam (1997) and Nice (2001). They formed the EU's ‘second pillar'
– a policy area in which action is decided by intergovernmental agreement and
in which the Commission and the Parliament play only a minor role. Decisions in
this area are taken by consensus, although individual states can abstain.
Although the Treaty of Lisbon did away with ‘pillars' in the EU's structure, it
did not change the way in which security and defence matters are decided.
However, it changed the policy's name from ESDP to CSDP – the common security
and defence policy.
The aim of EU foreign policy is, essentially, to ensure
security, stability, democracy and respect for human rights – not only in its
immediate neighbourhood but also in other hot spots around the world, such as
in Africa, the Middle East and the Caucasus. Its main tool is ‘soft power',
which covers things like election observation missions, humanitarian aid and
development assistance. In 2009, the EU donated humanitarian aid worth €900
million to 30 countries, mostly in Africa. The EU provides 60% of the world's
development assistance and helps the world's most needy countries to fight
poverty, feed their people, avoid natural disasters, access drinking water and
fight disease. At the same time, the EU actively encourages these countries to
respect the rule of law and to open up their markets to international trade.
The Commission and the European Parliament are careful to ensure that the aid
is provided in an accountable manner and is properly managed and used.
Is the EU able and willing to go further than this ‘soft
power' diplomacy? That is the main challenge for the years ahead. All too
often, the European Council's joint statements and common positions on major
international issues (the Middle East peace process, Iraq, terrorism, relations
with Russia, Iran, Cuba, etc.) express nothing but the lowest common
denominator. Meanwhile, the large member states continue to play their own
individual diplomatic roles. Yet it is when the European Union speaks with one
voice that it is seen as a global player. If its credibility and influence are
to grow, the EU must combine its economic might and trading power with the
steady implementation of its common security and defence policy.
(b) tangible achievements of the
common security and defence policy (cSdP)
Since 2003, the European Union has had the capacity to carry
out crisis management operations, as the member states voluntarily make some of
their own forces available to the EU for performing such operations.
Responsibility for running the operations lies with a set of politico-military
bodies: the Political and Security Committee (PSC), the EU Military Committee
(EUMC), the Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management (Civcom) and
the European Union Military Staff (EUMS). This set of tools is what gives
substance to the common security and defence policy. It enables the EU to carry
out the tasks it has set itself – humanitarian and peacemaking or peacekeeping
missions. These missions must avoid duplicating what NATO is doing, and this is
guaranteed by the ‘Berlin plus' arrangements agreed between NATO and the EU.
They give the European Union access to NATO's logistical resources.
Since 2003, the European Union has launched 22 military
operations and civilian missions. These missions and operations, under the
European flag, are being or have been deployed on three continents.
As military technology becomes ever more sophisticated and
expensive, EU governments are finding it increasingly necessary to work
together on arms manufacture – especially now that they are striving to reduce
public spending to help them weather the financial crisis. Moreover, if their
armed forces are to carry out joint missions outside Europe, their systems must
be interoperable and their equipment sufficiently standardised. This is why the
Thessaloniki European Council in June 2003 decided to set up a European Defence
Agency (EDA) to help develop the EU's military capabilities.
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