What does foreign policy mean?

Foreign Policy: Objectives, Mechanisms and Results

The EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) was created in 1993 and strengthened by subsequent treaties. Today, Parliament is scrutinizing the CFSP in depth and is helping to develop it, in particular through its support to the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU Special Representative (EUSB) and EU delegations. With its budgetary powers, Parliament shapes the scope and scope of the CFSP as well as the EU's financial instruments that support the EU's activities abroad.

CFSP: development through treaties

The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the European Union was created by the Treaty on European Union (TEU) in 1993 with the aim of maintaining peace, strengthening international security, promoting international cooperation and democracy to further develop and consolidate the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The EUV introduced the “three-pillar system” with the CFSP as the second pillar. The 1997 Amsterdam Treaty created a more efficient decision-making process that included constructive abstentions and qualified majority voting. In December 1999 the European Council established the office of High Representative for the CFSP. The 2003 Treaty of Nice introduced further changes to optimize the decision-making process, and the Political and Security Committee (PSC), which was established by a Council decision in January 2001, was mandated to exercise political control and the strategic direction of the To undertake crisis management operations.

With the Treaty of Lisbon, which came into force on January 1st, 2009, the European Union was given a legal personality and an institutional structure for its external service. In addition, the pillar structure of the EU introduced in 1993 with the TEU was eliminated. The Treaty created a number of new CFSP actors such as the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who is also the Vice-President of the Commission (HR / VP), and the new permanent President of the Council. In addition, the European External Action Service (EEAS) was created and the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), which is an integral part of the CFSP (see also 5.1.2), has been upgraded.

The legal basis of the CFSP was laid down in the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and revised in the Treaty of Lisbon. In Articles 21-46, Title V, TEU, the "General provisions on the Union's external action and special provisions on the common foreign and security policy" were laid down. Articles 205-222, Part 5, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) cover the Union's external action. Article 346 and Article 347 Part 7 also apply.

Parliament's foreign policy powers and instruments

Despite its limited formal role in the foreign policy decision-making process, the European Parliament has supported the CFSP concept from the start and has sought ways to broaden the scope of the concept. In view of the international challenges that have arisen over the past decade, the European Parliament has repeatedly advocated the creation of the office of “Foreign Minister of the EU” and a “European diplomatic service”. In practice, Parliament has achieved some informal cooperation with the EEAS, the EU Presidency, the Council Secretariat and the Commission in the field of foreign affairs, as well as with the national parliaments of the Member States.

Article 36 TEU obliges the High Representative to consult the Parliament regularly on the main aspects of the CFSP and the decisions relating to it, and to keep Parliament informed of the development of this policy. Debates on CFSP progress reports take place in Parliament twice a year, with Parliament putting its questions to the Council or the High Representative and making recommendations.

Parliament's right to be informed about and consulted on the CFSP / CSDP was further strengthened by the Declaration on Political Accountability made by the High Representative in 2010. The declaration included the following points, among others:

  • strengthening the status of "Joint Consultative Sessions" which allow a designated group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to meet with their colleagues from the Political and Security Committee (PSC) of the Council, the EEAS and the Commission to Discuss ongoing and planned CSDP civilian missions;
  • the confirmation of the right of Parliament's “Special Committee” to have access to confidential information related to the CFSP and the CSDP; this right is based on an interinstitutional agreement from 2002;
  • exchanges of views with Heads of Mission, Heads of Delegation and other high-level EU officials at meetings and hearings of parliamentary committees;
  • instructing the High Representative to be present in plenary at least twice a year to report on the current status of the CFSP / CSDP and to answer questions.

In addition to this political dialogue, Parliament exerts its influence through the budgetary procedure. Parliament, as part of the EU budgetary authority, has to approve the annual budget of the CFSP. By means of a procedure of trilateral negotiations with the Council and the Commission, Parliament also makes a contribution to shaping the respective external financial instruments.

Parliament regularly reviews the operations of the EEAS and makes proposals on structural issues, ranging from its geographical and gender balance to its interaction with other EU institutions and the diplomatic services of the Member States. Parliament also has regular discussions with the High Representative and the EU Special Representatives (EUSB) who are appointed for specific regions or topics. There is also an exchange of views between the parliamentary committees that helped set up the EEAS and the newly appointed Heads of Delegation of the EEAS.

Parliament also plays a role in monitoring negotiations and the implementation of international agreements. In order to conclude such agreements, the Council requires the consent of Parliament (see also 5.2.1; 5.2.3).

Internal structures of the parliament involved in the CFSP

Much of Parliament's work on the CFSP is carried out through special committees, notably the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and its two sub-committees (Security and Defense / SEDE and Human Rights / DROI) and the Committee on International Commerce (INTA) and the Development Committee (DEVE). These committees shape the CFSP through the reports and opinions they issue. They also serve as Parliament's main contact points for global governance structures (including the United Nations), other EU institutions, the Council Presidencies and the national parliaments of the member states.

The parliamentary delegations, whose task is to maintain and develop Parliament's international contacts (primarily through interparliamentary cooperation), also carry out tasks in connection with the CFSP and promote the fundamental values ​​of the European Union, which include freedom, democracy, human rights, Fundamental freedoms and the rule of law count. There are currently 44 standing inter-parliamentary delegations, which include the Joint Parliamentary Committees (JPC), the Parliamentary Co-operation Committees (PCAs), other parliamentary delegations and the Joint Parliamentary Assemblies.

The inter-parliamentary delegations include:

  • the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly set up to bring together MEPs and elected representatives from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries that have signed the Cotonou Agreement;
  • EuroLat, a mixed multilateral assembly that has its origins in the Bi-regional Strategic Partnership between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean established in June 1999;
  • the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly (PV), which is the parliamentary forum of the EU's Eastern Partnership, bringing together MEPs and members of the national parliaments of the Eastern Partnership countries;
  • the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean (PV-UfM), which represents the parliamentary dimension of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), which has replaced the Euro-Mediterranean partnership (the Barcelona Process).

The influence of the European Parliament on the CFSP

Parliament's participation in the CFSP helps improve the democratic accountability of this policy. Parliament strongly supported the post-Lisbon institutional landscape, advocating a greater role for the EEAS, EU Delegations and the EUSB, as well as more coherent policies and a more effective CFSP. To avoid duplication and inefficiency, it has pushed for greater coherence among the EU's political and financial instruments for foreign policy.

The European Parliament has provided a platform for exchange among institutional and government decision-makers as well as civil society and epistemic communities (such as think tanks and academics) to help raise public awareness of the CFSP and to involve a facilitate large numbers of both governmental and non-governmental partners inside and outside the EU. Parliament has increased the visibility of the EU's foreign policy through its activities and has acted as a bridge between the EU institutions and the citizens.

The global strategy and the European Parliament

In June 2015, the European Council instructed the High Representative to develop a Global EU Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS) by June 2016. This came after the High Representative carried out a strategic assessment of key changes and challenges in the global environment, which indicated that the 2003 European Security Strategy (ESS) needed to be revised. The future Global Strategy should provide a comprehensive strategic framework within which the EU would be able to understand today's global challenges and respond to them decisively and consistently, drawing on the wide range of tools at its disposal and mechanisms.

The European Parliament, along with Member States, national parliaments, experts and the general public, participated in the consultation process on the global strategy. Parliament organized AFET committee meetings and expert hearings on Global Strategy and adopted a resolution on “The EU in a changing global environment - a more connected, conflicted and complex world”, setting out Parliament’s wishes for the future course of the EU's foreign policy.

On June 28, 2016, the High Representative presented the Global Strategy for the Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union to the European Council. With its focus on security, its claim to strategic autonomy and its principled but pragmatic approach to the European context, the EU Global Strategy represents a significant reorientation compared to the 2003 European Security Strategy. Strategy sets five priorities for the EU's foreign policy:

  • the security of our Union,
  • the resilience of states and societies in our eastern and southern neighborhood,
  • an integrated approach to conflict management,
  • cooperative regional orders
  • and global governance for the 21st century.

To implement the new strategy, the EU will revise the existing sectoral strategies and develop new thematic or geographical strategies in line with the priorities of the EU Global Strategy. This will include a sectoral strategy that will specify the civil-military objectives, tasks, requirements and priority capabilities.

In November 2016, the HR / VP presented the Council (Foreign Affairs) with a plan for the implementation of the CSDP, the three groups of Priority groups include: responding to external conflicts and crises, building partners' capacities, and protecting the European Union and its citizens.

The plan contains 13 proposals for security and defense. These include a Coordinated Annual Review on Defense (CARD), a better crisis response capability of the EU (including through the use of EU battle groups) and a new Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) for those member states that want to be more committed to security and defense. On March 6, 2018, the Council adopted a roadmap for the implementation of PESCO. There are currently 34 PESCO projects being developed with the participation of 25 Member States (see 5.1.2 for further details).

To support the competitiveness and innovation of the EU defense industry, the Commission launched the European Defense Industrial Development Program (EDIDP) in August 2018 and, in May 2019, a joint action plan with the EEAS to facilitate the implementation of the civilian CSDP pact submitted. In its June 2019 conclusions on the state of play on the European Union's Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy, the Council recommended the full implementation of the European Defense Fund, which will strengthen the EU's defense industry and technology.

In October 2019, on the occasion of the third anniversary of the global strategy for the European Union's foreign and security policy, the EEAS published a report on its implementation. It highlighted, among other things, the progress made by the EU in overcoming obstacles to military mobility and the importance of EU-NATO cooperation on security and defense. In a speech in October 2019, then HR / VP Federica Mogherini stated that "strategic autonomy and cooperation with our partners - starting with NATO - are two sides of the same coin", explaining that the EU's partnership with NATO is for a functioning approach of “cooperative autonomy” is essential [1].

At the end of 2018, Parliament published an annual report on the implementation of the common foreign and security policy [2]. Members of the European Parliament reiterated their conviction that solutions to the EU's challenges can only be found together and called for a real common European foreign and security policy based on strategic autonomy and their integration, including in terms of capabilities, in the fields Industry and operations based. The report recommends, among other things, strengthening the EU's internal resilience to external interference and defining a joint strategy with international partners, as well as investing in the stability and prosperity of the Western Balkans, promoting ever closer relations with the Eastern Partnership by strengthening economic ties and promoting economic and social development in the southern Mediterranean and sub-Saharan Africa. The report also recognizes the positive impact that the establishment of PESCO and CARD will have on defense cooperation.

[1] With this expression, she referred to the EU's ability to work with NATO as well as with other partners without compromising its own strategic autonomy in defense and security matters.

Jérôme Legrand