The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) —made up of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States—performs a series of functions fundamental for the European Union's system of external relations. It manages the EU's relations with the rest of the world. This includes the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), external economic relations, development and humanitarian aid.Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Foreign Affairs Council is chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission.
Informally established by the Member States in 1970, the European Political Cooperation (EPC) was institutionalised under the Single European Act of 1987, and essentially provided mechanisms for consultation among Member States on matters of general foreign policy.
In the light of the geo-political changes under way in Europe the early 1990s (German reunification, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Warsaw Pact), and of intensified nationalistic tensions in the Balkans that would later lead to the dismembering of Yugoslavia, the Union’s Member States decided to establish a “common foreign policy” on the basis of the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty (1993), subsequently modified at Amsterdam and Nice.
Today’s European Union works to ensure a high level of cooperation in all sectors of international relations with the following aims:
- defend its values, fundamental interests, security, independence and integrity;
- consolidate and support democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the principles of international law;
- maintain peace, preventing conflicts and strengthening international security, in accordance with the objectives and principles of the UN Charter as well as the Final Helsinki Act and the goals of the Paris Charter, including those concerning external borders;
- foster sustainable development in developing countries on economic, social and environmental planes, with the main goal of eliminating poverty;
- encourage the integration of all countries into the world economy through the gradual abolition of international trade restrictions;
- contribute to the drafting of international measures aimed at protecting the environment and sustainable management of the world’s natural resources, with a view to ensuring sustainable development;
- help populations, countries and regions affected by natural or man-made disasters; and
- promote an international system based on strengthened multilateral cooperation and good world governance.
The Council identifies the Union’s interests and objectives on the basis of the principles outlined above. The Council drafts common foreign and security policies and takes decisions necessary to outline and implement them on the basis of its general stances and strategies.
Since the 1st November 2014, the former Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Federica Mogherini, is High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The High Representative, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Council, and is at the same time Vice President of the Commission, contributes to drafting foreign and security policy and ensuring implementation of the decisions adopted by the European Council and by the Council itself. The High Representative’s tasks are underpinned by a European External Action Service, which works in collaboration with Member State diplomatic services.
The European Security Strategy
(“A Secure Europe in a Better World”) approved in December 2003, was based on a series of basic premises and went on to identify a series of threats with which Europe was being called upon to confront. Departing from the supposition that no country is capable on its own of dealing with the complex problems of today and that the EU is inevitably a global actor with its population of 450 million and a GDP equal to one quarter of that of the world, various threats to the continent were identified such as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, failed States and organized crime. On the basis of this scenario, and with a view to the defence of its security and promotion of its values, the Union identified three strategic goals:
- To confront threats: The end of the Cold War and the new context of globalization have led to an evolution in traditional concepts of self-defence, which is no longer based on the danger of invasion, but on less visible and more distant threats mean the first line of defence often lies abroad. Conflict and threat prevention and are taking priority. Since none of the threats is any longer solely military and cannot be confronted with military means alone, there needs to be a combination of military, civilian and political instruments.
- To build security in nearby areas such as the Balkans, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Caucasus.
- An international order based on effective multilateralism within the fundamental framework of the Charter of the United Nations and in respect of institutions such as the WTO, NATO and OSCE.
On the occasion of the European Council of December 2007, the heads of state and government tasked then Secretary General/High Representative Javier Solana with drafting a revised European Security Strategy.
This document was presented at the GAERC of December 2008 and later approved by the European Council of 11/12 December 2008. The updated strategy, taking its cue from the previous one of 2003, more closely analysed a series of new threats that Europe is facing: the consequences of failed States, crime, piracy, widespread suffering, illegal immigration, energy vulnerability, global warming and environmental deterioration, financial crises, etc. Particular attention was given to the risks associated with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and organized crime, energy security and climate change. It noted that threats associated with the proliferation of WMDs has grown over the past five years and is no longer associated only with the risk of the use of those means by governments but also by terrorist organizations. Four operational spheres for combating these risks were identified: prevention of fundamentalism and the recruitment of potential terrorists, protection of potential targets, the search for potential terrorists and reaction to eventual attacks. In the context of a modern society increasingly dependent on computer infrastructures, particular attention was also dedicated to the risk of attacks at those levels. In terms of energy security the accent was placed on the advisability of differentiating sources and developing a single European energy market, and also on the importance of adequate policies with principal oil and gas suppliers as well as countries crossed by the infrastructures used to supply the continent. Finally, the increasingly urgent and evolving problem of climate change was addressed.
The December 2013 European Council invited the High Representative, in close cooperation with the Commission, to assess the impact of changes in the global environment, and to report to the Council in the course of 2015 on the challenges and opportunities arising for the Union, following consultations with the Member States.
The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) formerly the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and referred to as CSDP in the Treaty of Lisbon, is an integral part of the CFSP, i.e. an instrument of the Union's foreign policy, and is aimed at maintaining peace, preventing conflict and strengthening international security. According to the Treaty on European Union in force, it includes the gradual definition of a common Union defence policy.
In June 1999, The Cologne European Council placed crisis management at the centre of CFSP development. The Helsinki European Council in December 1999 established that by the end of 2003 Member States would have to be in a position to call up military forces of up to a maximum of 50-60,000 men within 60 days, and maintain them for at least one year, as part of voluntary cooperation in EU-led operations. These troops would be used in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions (i.e. the so-called Petersburg missions). In Helsinki it was also decided to set up new political and military bodies and formations within the Council to allow the Union to ensure the political guidance and strategic direction necessary in such operations within a single institutional framework. The December 2000 Nice European Council established the basis for the creation of various structures, including the Political and Security Committee (COPS). This Committee has the task of monitoring developments in the international situation, of helping define policies and of monitoring the implementation of those adopted. At the same time the institutional framework was adapted, with the creation of special military facilities aimed at ensuring the strategic direction of EU-led operations: a Military Command and a nucleus of the future Union Military Chief of Staff. Alongside its military apparatus, at the European Councils of Feira, Mice and Gotebörg, the EU set about developing an equally efficient civilian apparatus for crisis management (police forces, civil administration, judiciary personnel, civil defence), and massive recourse was made to these, parallel to the conceptual development of the ESDP, which have given the EU growing credibility and authority in civilian crisis and post-conflict management.
The new “2010 Headline Goals” were set in 2004, aimed at covering the entire spectrum of possible EU crisis management missions in the context of the “amplified” European Security Strategy of 2003. This project was based on a segmented approach, one of which was the creation of the European Defence Agency and Battle Groups (rapid reaction forces of 1500 men deployable within 5 to 10 days for at least 60 days with the goal of confronting contingents for a short period of time or of serving as an “entry force” for broader operations), the development of new maritime capacities and an integrated communications systems, the quantitative and qualitative increase of national armed forces and the development of adequate synergies among armed national forces. Symmetrically, the European Union also concentrated on consolidating the catalogue of non-military resources through the 2008 Civilian Headline Goals (and currently of the 2010 Civilian Headline Goals) that envisaged the identification within Member State governments of professionals in the areas of police, civil administration, civil defence and rule of law. These resources were to be potentially useable in four types of scenarios: stabilization and reconstruction, conflict prevention, institution-building and humanitarian operations for civilian support.
The Foreign Affairs Council of May 2014 approved Council conclusions on the so-called “comprehensive approach”. This is a working method and a set of measures aimed at increasing the potential, the effectiveness and consistency of the EU’s external action by drawing on the full range of its instruments and resources. Work is now under way to implement these conclusions and make the comprehensive approach a guiding principle for the external action of the EU Institutions and its Member States. Among the many initiatives, there is an early warning mechanism to detect in advance and prevent crisis and instability in third Countries and always closer ties between “internal” and “external” security of the EU and its Member States.
Since January 1st 2003 The EU has launched 33 ESDP/CSDP operations (both civilian and military). Current missions are operating in the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.Italy participates in almost all of these missions and lends its continuous support to the further development of the EU’s crisis management’s capabilities.
In just a few years ESDP has evolved significantly. From its first civilian and military missions launched in 2003 up to the present day, the EU has shown itself to be a protagonist on the international scene. To the possibility of speaking in a single voice on foreign policy it has gradually added a capacity for unified action and intervention in crisis management.
In particular, the number of missions in which the Union is able to use both military and civilian means has been expanded, and the Council has unanimously been given the possibility of entrusting them to a group of Member States (article 44 TEU). The ban on creating strengthened cooperation has been eliminated and the possibility is being considered for Member States desiring to do so to undertake more binding commitments known as “permanent strengthened cooperation”, which is pending a qualified majority decision by the Council. In contrast to the general provisions for strengthened cooperation, the Treaty of Lisbon does not envisage a minimum number of countries participating in these.
Finally, in December 2013, the European Council approved conclusions which outline an ambitious set of initiatives and objectives to further develop CSDP and shape always more integrated defence policies among EU Member States. These are subdivided into three work strands: 1) increasing the effectiveness, visibility and impact of CSDP; 2) enhancing the developments of capabilities; 3) strengthening Europe’s defence industries. The Heads of State and Government will meet in the June 2015 European Council to discuss again CSDP and assess progress in implementing these three work strands.
EU Treaty: Title V (Articles 21 to 46)
Eurofor (European Operational Rapid Force) and Euromarfor (European Maritime Force) were both created in 1995 as large unit multinational intervention forces from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. None of these nations is considered a leader since command is assumed on a rotating basis. It is an operational rapid reaction force set up to carry out support operations for humanitarian, peacekeeping and peace support, and peace enforcement pursuant to the Petersburg Declaration. The Eurofor Permanent Multinational Command is headquartered in Florence, while Euromarfor is hosted in the country holding the rotating command.