Dinner at Fredrik’s - Will the EU finally speak with one voice under the Lisbon Treaty?

, by Christian Ruiz

Dinner at Fredrik's - Will the EU finally speak with one voice under the Lisbon Treaty?

We are living a historic moment. After a struggle of eight years, the heads of state and government of the European Union will meet for dinner on the 19 November to resolve the last remaining question before the entry of the Lisbon Treaty: who are going to be the President of the European Council and the High Representative?

There is currently much hype about the question: who will be the first “European President”. Yet spectators might be very disappointed when they will see how weak the European Council President really is. It may be recommended to take a closer look to know what the real competences of this European Council President (and not “European President”) are. Overall, the EU Foreign Policy under the Lisbon Treaty will have vast improvements like a very potent High Representative (“Foreign Minister”), a European External Action Service that will be at his disposal, Union delegations, legal personality for the EU and the list goes on much longer.

But will Europe finally speak with one voice? Unfortunately not! From now on the EU will have four

] important key-players that will deal with foreign policy. The most important is supposed to be the European Council President, who shall represent the position of the European Council in the world for 2.5 years (renewable once) and having thus more continuity than the current Rotating Presidency. But he will represent the EU “without prejudice to the High Representative”. The HR on the other hand, being a bridge between the Commission and the Council, has a wide spectrum of new competences and he will “represent the EU in CFSP” at his level and “conduct political dialogue with third parties on the Union’s behalf”, which will be conflicting with the tasks of the European Council President. Furthermore he will be in charge of the External Relations Council and have power over very influential bodies and committees like the Political and Security Committee (PSC or “COPS”) and the EU military committee (EUMC). The European Council president will not have any bodies like these that will consult him in his work.

From now on the EU will have four [

important key-players that will deal with foreign policy.

The third representative of the EU will still be the President of the European Commission in affairs that belong to the commission. Foreign policy sensitive issues like trade and development as well as enlargement will still be the domain of the Commission. Last but not least, there will still be a Rotating Presidency. Surprised? It seems to me that this fact is completely unknown to many: there will be an EU-Council President and a Rotating Presidency! The Rotating Presidency will still chair all of the council-configurations except the External Relations council! In addition it will chair the very influential and central COREPER, where the Permanent Representatives (“Ambassadors”) of the Member States sit. On the one hand the Rotating Presidency will have the power of the real agenda-setting as the issues go from the bottom levels up in the council system. On the other hand the Rotating Presidency will be in charge to foster agreement on issues like Energy, Trade and Agriculture – which do have a strong foreign policy impact.

In principle the Lisbon Treaty is a big step concerning a more coherent EU foreign policy. But the EU will still not speak with one voice. There will be tensions between the above mentioned four representatives – in particularly between the HR and the European Council President. On Thursday’s dinner, the taste of the Brussels sprouts might be less strong than expected. They might be overshadowed by the scent of British smoked ham à la Miliband. But that’s only speculation, right? Bon appétit!

- Dinner, source: google images

Your comments

  • On 17 November 2009 at 19:16, by french derek Replying to: Dinner at Fredrik’s - Will the EU finally speak with one voice under the Lisbon Treaty?

    Good overview, thank you. The only thing you perhaps should,have mentioned is that the High Representative will also be the Vice-President of the Commission. So, where does the High Representative’s superior (ie Barroso) stand in all this? Does that make five representatives on the world stage???

  • On 18 November 2009 at 12:02, by Christian Ruiz Replying to: Dinner at Fredrik’s - Will the EU finally speak with one voice under the Lisbon Treaty?

    Hello Derek, Thank you for your comment! In the text I phrased it that the HR is the “bridge between the Commission and the Council”. As you correctly pointed out, that means that he will be the Vice-president of the Commission and in addition also replace the current Commissioner for External Relations.

    The President of the Commission (currently Barroso)is mentioned in the article as the third of the four representatives. But is the President of the Commission the superior of the HR? This is actually a tricky question.

    First of all, the HR is more than only Vice-president. He is also subordinate to the Council. Thus he is subordinate to both -Commission and Council. It depends thus always on the legal basis of the Foreign Policy that is to be handled. Where the Commission has and will have competence, then you could argue that the HR will have to follow the will of the commission. To illustrate this, you can imagine that this constitutes somehow the tasks that the current Commissioner for External Relations (Benita Ferrero-Waldner) is doing.

    Second, there might still be a very extensive grey-zone that might get clearer, when the HR will excercise his role. I personally hope, as a Federalist, that the HR will effectively use this grey-zone and create a strong precedent for his role. This could mean a strong step towards a more coherent EU foreign policy and also a more ’federalist character’.

    Cheers! Chris

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