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This House favours a common EU foreign policy
This House favours a common EU foreign policy
With the Lisbon Treaty reforms, the EU has sought, amongst other things, to strengthen and to streamline its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and to develop further its Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). As part of this, the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR) has been joined with that of First Vice President of the Commission (VP) responsible for External Relations (including development and relations between the EU and neighbouring states to the East and South). The holder of this post (HRVP), currently Baroness Catherine Ashton, acts on the basis of agreement within the Commission and unanimous agreement between all the EU foreign ministers. Her stated goal is to steer the EU foreign policy agenda and represent the EU as a united front. With this post – as well as that of the European Council President – the EU will have partially answered the question: if we want to talk to Europe, who do we call? The creation of the post of HRVP is a culmination of a number of different efforts to turn the initial project for a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) – adopted under the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 – into a workable, better integrated policy that is able to respond to international crises more quickly and to present a united front to the world on behalf of the EU. It is a direct response to both internal and external criticisms that the EU has had to face over the last 15 years in its handling of a variety of international crises; the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the ‘war on terror’ and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. With bigger budgetary and diplomatic powers - including the creation of a dedicated EU diplomatic service (the European External Action Service) - the newly strengthened post of HRVP may set the stage for the creation of an increasingly stronger political union along practical rather than rhetorical lines.
|Points For||Points Against|
|The EU has already been unifying on multiple fronts, this is just a step in the same direction.||The post of a High Representative is merely a shadow of what it should have been, and its failure shows the EU's inability to consolidate foreign policy.|
|The fact that it is a Representative highlights the fact that the EU is based on consultation and consensus, and that is a positive thing.||The previous arrangement of having two foreign policy centers (in the Commission and in the Council) was arguably inefficient, but consolidating these into a single office-holder has created more complexity and at significantly greater expense.|
|The creation of the post of a High Representative marked an important change in the EU.||There have been tests on the EU's ability to create a common foreign policy that it has failed.|
|The High Representative will be a catalyst and a facilitator for decision-making.|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
The EU has already been unifying on multiple fronts, this is just a step in the same direction.
The EU has slowly been building up its own common military framework, with the UK and France leading the effort to pool European military capacity. In addition, the EU itself has created new institutional bodies such as the Political and Security Committee, a Military Committee and military staff. The EU has had military envoys in Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and has committed itself to the creation of a Common Security and Defense Policy with 3-4,000 troops on permanent standby in multilateral ‘battlegroups’ ready for immediate deployment(see Rockwell Schnabel’s article listed below)1. While incremental, these are steps not to be ignored. The Union has also placed that military capacity within the broader context of a security strategy designed to promote international peace, justice and development.Improve this
The very creation of a common military framework has been fraught with disagreement. The UK and France have only been willing to cooperate bilaterally and outside the EU framework, within a set of nationally-framed security interests. Both states are also very traditional military powers. While some states pretend to support the creation of a credible EU military capacity, they are unwilling to contribute seriously to its construction and when faced with a crisis almost always turn to the United States for military solutions. While the EU does like to see itself as the diplomat of the world and flaunt its achievements with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), it still ponders the possibility of a middle-of-the-road strategy of militarization and securitization. In the meanwhile, it continues to reside comfortably within the US sphere of military protection while acting as an enfant terrible who rebels against and yet continues to accept US protection. It is a contradiction to argue that the EU is both attempting to build up its military force as well as providing an alternative sense of security that does not rely on military power.Improve this
The fact that it is a Representative highlights the fact that the EU is based on consultation and consensus, and that is a positive thing.
While the new ‘EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy’ marks only a bold first step towards a more unified voice for the EU, the decisions are indeed still based on a state by state consultation mechanism – hence the name representative. This should however not to be downplayed as a less significant change in how the EU approaches its foreign policy. The consultation aspect is in fact essential to reaching agreement and the importance of not only presenting a united front to the rest of the world (the EU is exemplary in trade policy and environmental policy, but less important when it comes to presenting a united voice in foreign policy as Belgian Foreign minister Mark Eyskens put it in 1991 “Europe is an economic giant, a political dwarf, and a military worm” 1, but also creating a united front through collaboration and debate. One should thus see this not only as a means to an end, but rather as an important mechanism in itself, whereby new identities are slowly created along with a deeper sense of commitment to a common set of values.
1. Craig R Whitney, ‘WAR IN THE GULF: EUROPE; Gulf Fighting Shatters Europeans’ Fragile Unity’, http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/25/world/war-in-the-gulf-europe-gulf-fighting-shatters-europeans-fragile-unity.html
Consultation, collaboration and the attempted creation of a common set of values has not worked and is not likely to work. This language is not much different from what we have heard with every attempt the EU has made to push for further political integration. The role of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), as agreed upon back in 1993 during the Maastricht Treaty, was in fact presented very much along similar lines. Fifteen years later however, that united front has not been created. If anything, the EU’s political union, and certain any attempts towards a common foreign policy, have completely disintegrated when faced with the War in Iraq and the larger war on terror and more recently the Euro debt crisis on another front.Improve this
The creation of the post of a High Representative marked an important change in the EU.
The creation of a post of High Representative and Vice President of the Commission (HRVP) marks an important change in the decision making process at the EU level with regards to foreign policy. Agreement on the post showed a clear commitment to the pursuit of a common EU foreign policy and to developing a unique cooperative model for foreign and defense policy decision making that goes beyond the nation state. Member states should now deliver on that commitment by seeking as much common ground as possible to ensure that the High Representative’s role is truly significant. The goal of a common foreign and security policy should thus be supported not only as a mechanism to streamline EU’s position and role in world politics, but also to reinforce notions of cooperation and consultation essential for maintaining a stable international system, in line with the stated goals of the EU. (The 12 stars in a circle is meant to symbolize the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony among the peoples of Europe)1.Improve this
The creation of a combined post of High Representative for foreign and security policy and Vice President of the Commission for External Relations marks a needless complication of decision making. It adds an expensive and largely pointless layer of European bureaucracy to a substantively weak and poorly coordinated foreign policy. This failure is made worse by the member states’ refusal to appoint a senior European politician with international credentials to the post. This suggests that the European Union is simply not ready to pursue a serious and substantive foreign policy. 1Improve this
The High Representative will be a catalyst and a facilitator for decision-making.
The High Representative will not only act as a spokesman for EU nations when they agree on foreign policies, but will act as a catalyst around which external policy will increasingly become coordinated. By chairing meetings of EU foreign ministers, he or she will be able to shape the agenda and influence the outcomes of meetings, encouraging member states increasingly to think in terms of common foreign policy positions. They will have added authority from their ability to speak for the EU in the UN Security Council. The High Representative will also direct the EU’s new External Action Service, which brings together policy specialists from both the Council and Commission in a unique manner (ranging from the Arctic region to nuclear safety and enlargement) 1. With representatives all over the world the EU will develop a foreign service capable of creating and articulating policy positions in a manner that few national governments can match. Over time this will promote the evolution of a true EU foreign and security policy, and will contribute significantly to increased European consciousness among EU citizens and further moves to political unity.Improve this
The position of High Representative will be, and has been, largely powerless, because the member states have such divergent interests that agreement will be rare, and that attempts to devise a common foreign policy for the EU are doomed. Because control of foreign policy is such a key aspect of sovereignty, it would be wrong for national governments to give this power away to the EU, which is less democratically accountable. If the EU and its High Representative do try to pressure states into common positions this may well backfire, creating strong anti-EU feeling in both national governments and public opinion. Pushing too hard for a common foreign policy and giving too much power to an unelected High Representative may instead begin to tear Europe apart. 1
1. Traynor, Ian, 'EU foreign ministers round on Lady Ashton', guardian.co.uk, 23rd May 2011, accessed 1/8/11Improve this
The post of a High Representative is merely a shadow of what it should have been, and its failure shows the EU's inability to consolidate foreign policy.
While seemingly groundbreaking, the current agreement on the EU reform treaty was nothing but a lame attempt to salvage a much bolder initiative: an EU Constitution. The rejection of the EU Constitution in the Dutch and French referendums, as well as the extreme difficulty in getting even its watered-down version accepted, shows the extent to which the member states of the EU are not yet ready to think and act in unison. The UK representatives successfully insisted that the language of the reform treaty clearly states that major foreign policy decisions will continue to be taken at the state level.Improve this
One should not forget that a uniting Europe in itself has been a very bold undertaking that has taken several centuries to develop, and is certainly far from being a finished product. It would be unfair to argue that the EU has made no progress in its collaboration on foreign policy since the initial establishment of the CFSP, or that the past fifteen years have seen more decay than progress on further political integration. The mixed EU reaction to the war in Iraq has long been a point of contention and criticism, yet it represents only a small and exceptional failure, in a much larger common EU foreign policy. The Enlargement Process has been by far one of the most successful elements of EU foreign and security policy, along with many other success stories with aid to third parties and management of international conflicts, for example the EU’s role in Kosovo.Improve this
The previous arrangement of having two foreign policy centers (in the Commission and in the Council) was arguably inefficient, but consolidating these into a single office-holder has created more complexity and at significantly greater expense.
Creating a position of EU High Representative is not objectionable in itself. Previously the EU was in the ludicrous situation of having two foreign affairs spokesmen, one from the Council and the other from the Commission. Rivalry and duplication of efforts, staffs and resources results, and so focusing all the EU’s external affairs work around one person makes some sense. What it does not mean is that the High Representative should lead a drive for a stronger common foreign policy position. Only when member states agree (which may not be often) will he or she have a role. In fact, by weakening the foreign affairs role within the Commission, this development may actually limit the pretensions of Brussels to develop its own agenda and dictate foreign policy to the member states.Improve this
Creating a common EU foreign and security policy will in fact be easier than many people suppose, because many of the 21st century’s most important issues in external relations are already part of the ‘normal’ EU policy routine; climate change, development, trade, aid and the environment, for example. Most such issues are ones on which any single member state, even one as significant as Britain, France or Germany, cannot hope to make a real global impact alone. Only by coordinating policy at EU level will the interests of member states be advanced at all. Having a High Representative to coordinate and promote this work on behalf of the Union as a whole makes sense and actually gives all member states a greater international effectiveness – the true measure of sovereignty.Improve this
There have been tests on the EU's ability to create a common foreign policy that it has failed.
The War in Iraq, along with previous notable failures to deal with the breakup of former Yugoslavia, has been an excellent test for the extent to which the EU can claim to have a common approach to world politics and foreign policy in particular. It has clearly pointed out a whole range of diverse and often opposed national interests, and national publics that were unwilling to make compromises along EU lines of commitment. It has also showed that the economic power of the EU is not enough to turn it into a major player on the international scene: the lack in military power and presence speaks for itself. The EU still lies very much under the umbrella of NATO and US military power and as long as this military dependency continues, the EU will not be able to have its own independent voice in world politics. 1
1. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2056317,00.html ">http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2056317,00.htmlImprove this
The EU is indeed under NATO’s and US’s military umbrella, and while terrorist attacks on EU’s territory have certainly heightened levels of anxiety, its ‘foreign policy’ is still based on an inclusive approach: bring threatening nations under your economic and political umbrella and provide them with incentives to collaborate. Academics such as Allen David and Michael Smith have argued that the EU’s ‘foreign policy’ seeks to go beyond the nation state and thus treats what lies outside its borders not necessarily as ‘foreign’ and ‘threatening’ but rather as a different system.1 The EU provides a subsystem of international relations within a larger global system, in which threats and fears subside as a result of economic and military integration. The most pressing challenge is to learn how to extend this system beyond the current borders of the EU, keeping in mind that the accession process is a mechanism not to be abused.Improve this
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