Ever since its
foundation, discussions have taken place about the role of the European
Community on the world stage. The way
that the EU operates means that it has many of the characteristics of a state. So, should it have an army and an ability to
wage war? Some argue that the EU should
speak with one voice on global issues.
Since 1992, the EU has had official responsibility for a range of
security and diplomatic questions. However, critics argue that the EU is not an effective player on the world stage because EU
member states rarely all agree on the best approach to deal with foreign
Although the idea of a
single European foreign and defence policy has existed since soon after World
War II, during the Cold War it was the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
(NATO), a coalition of North American and European countries, that was
primarily responsible for defending western Europe against a nuclear attack
from the USSR. It was not until the
Maastricht Treaty (1992) and the Amsterdam Treaty (1997) that the EU gained
real power to make decisions about foreign and defence policy under the Common
Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).
This is now run by the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, currently Catherine Ashton. The position of High Representative was created by the Lisbon Treaty (2007) which aimed to strengthen the EU's voice on foreign and security policy. The Lisbon Treaty also created a new European External Action Service (EEAS) to represent all EU countries as a bloc in discussions with foreign governments under the leadership of the High Representative.
In the early 1990s, the
EU had difficulty co-ordinating a foreign policy, as evidenced in its slow
response to the genocides in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. However, in recent years, several EU
peacekeeping missions have been deployed in Macedonia, DR Congo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Chad. The EU has also
launched civilian operations to promote justice and the rule of law, train
police forces and monitor elections in countries across the world including
Georgia, Indonesia and Kosovo. In 2003, the EU
established a European Defence Agency (EDA) to help co-ordinate the development
of defence technology across the EU.
Why is EU Foreign Policy different?
There are two driving
forces behind developing a European foreign policy. First, there is a belief that through co-operation European nations
can avoid a return to nationalistic conflicts.
The second belief is that European nations' voices will be heard more clearly
if they are united. The emphasis of EU
foreign policy is on diplomacy and multilateral action, which
puts nation states within a larger framework of international
co-operation. Although EU foreign
policy does not require all member states to always agree, it does
encourage consensus through common bodies such as the EDA and the
recently established EEAS.
As the only global superpower,
the USA plays an important part in EU foreign policy calculations. After World War II, the USA led the
reconstruction of western Europe, however since the fall of the Berlin Wall in
1989, the USA and the EU have differed on many foreign policy issues. When the USA decided to invade Iraq in 2003,
the EU was deeply divided over what its role should be. The USA also opposed the 2006 launch of the
Galileo Satellite, which was built with Chinese involvement and which could
serve a military use previously only provided by an American system.
A major aspect of the EU's foreign policy concerns it's relations with countries with which it shares either land or sea borders with. The EU relates with these nations through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). This aims to persuade nations to embrace economic, political and social reforms in line with 'European values', through using incentives such as access to the single
market, EU aid, and tariff reductions. This process may also involve a country signing an Association Agreement with the EU.
'[The European Union] must have the capacity for
autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces, the means to decide
to use them, and a readiness to do so, in response to international
crises.' Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac, December 1998
'We do not interfere in American affairs. We hope they will have enough respect not to
interfere in ours'. Jacques Delors, EU Commission President, 1985-1995
'Germany has been a problem and France has been a
problem, but you look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe, they're not
with France and Germany... they're with the US.' Donald Rumsfeld, US Defence Secretary, 2003
co-operation between many countries all
agreed on a shared set of rules.
amongst all interested parties.
Association Agreement: a treaty promising tighter cooperation between the EU and an external nation in various economic, social and political fields.