Does ‘integration’ best describe the evolution of the Common Foreign and Security Policy?

, by Yannis Kechagiaras

Does ‘integration' best describe the evolution of the Common Foreign and Security Policy?

The process of the CFSP the last sixteen years can be described by integration contrary to the weak points of this premise. This essay presents the historic backdrop, delineates the evolution of the CFSP and then presents both the elements that fortify the integration approach and those that attenuate it and draws conclusions.

Historical background

Comparing the gradual steps of the European Communities (EC) the idea of integrationalism in contradiction to inter-governmentalism remained popular [1]. The sporadic miscarriages of attempts of early 50’s like the European Defense Community [2] or the European Political Community [3] gave birth to the idea of relinquishing any plan for political union in favor of a gradual mainly economic convergence which would lead someday to political integration in Europe [4].

Accordingly, the establishment of the European Political Cooperation (EPC) in the early 70’s was the first decisive step towards a unification of the then six members’ voice at the political level. In fact, the EPC had totally nothing to do with integrationalism since ‘[its] process remained outside the Community Framework’ with the engagement of the Commission being characterized as benign or harmful [5].

Surpassing the EPC; EFSP as second pillar

The literature presents quite uniform argumentations for the ensuing legalization of the EPC first in the Single European Act (SEA) and its transformation into a distinct pillar of the Maastricht Treaty (TEU) as a CFSP. Many scholars are occupied with national foreign policy objectives. Henrik Larsen poses the question in terms of geopolitical pressures. Thus, Great Britain conceived of the political development of the EC as a platform for its international role survival and, however transatlantic, she favored even military discussions in the EPC and lately in the defense dimension of the CFSP [6]. Others contend that the role of the just unified Germany in the creation of a common foreign policy within the framework of the Treaty on European Union functioned as a payoff for the German retreat on the Economic and Monetary Union. In parallel to this, French position on CFSP is illuminated through its endeavors to fasten the economically robust and fledgling united Germany to the European bandwagon [7]. In conclusion, the end of the Cold War –and respectively the 9/11 attacks– created a ‘collective level interest on the CFSP [8].

Beyond this quasi national-interest oriented analysis, the CFSP constitutes a refinement of the EPC in many aspects, since it entails the emergence of the ‘aquis politique’ of the Union. For the purpose of this essay, I am going to present in brief the elements that support this argumentation.

Firstly, the legalization of the EFSP under title V of the TEU and the provision that ‘the Member States shall work together to enhance and develop their mutual political solidarity’ (article 11 of TEU) materialized the federalist impulse for a political union. Still, the cooperation of the Commission on the agenda formulation of the EFSP and the shared initiative with the Council profoundly differentiates it from its predecessor; the EPC. In addition, the abolition of the Ministerial Council of the EPC and its complete absorption by the EC Council mechanism gives the impression of a ‘single institutional framework’ [9]. By and large, the role of the European Presidency becomes of great importance; it is the deputy organ of the decisions of the European Council on foreign policy issues. Furthermore, the capabilities of the European Council have been furthered. The Common Strategy illustrated through common positions and joint actions under at first the WEU and currently the ESDP complete the array of capabilities that are at hand.

Secondly, another dimension of the issue is the gradual absorption of the Western European Union by the structure of the European Union and the establishment of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) [10] as enshrined in the TEU (article 17) and took effect in the Amsterdam Treaty. The ESDP has been a major element of the second pillar of the TEU and in many ways has proved to possess more integrational features than even the CFSP does. In October 2009, ESDP maintained twenty-three missions and operations in the world. Under the ESDP, the Union has decided to develop the civilian aspects of crisis management in four priority areas: police, strengthening of the rule of law, strengthening civilian administration and civil protection.

Thridly, supplementary circumstances have constituted the common foreign policy more communitarized. The annual economic budget of the CFSP except for the military issues weights the central budget of the European Union [11], while the EPC secretariat merges with the general secretariat of the Council having equal number of national diplomats and community personnel [12].

At last, the integration approach is further enhanced by the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. First and foremost, with the Lisbon Treaty the pillar system is eliminated. The creation of a President of the European Council and a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRU) gives the European Union an identity. Both the position of High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy are superseded by the HRU. This is a solid proof the CFSP moves towards the unification of the responsibilities of the community foreign policy and the EU foreign policy [13] substituting article 3 of the TEU. Thus, it is supposed to cease overlapping and competitiveness amongst the Commission, the Council and the HR [14]. Finally, the end of the six-month presidency of the EU favors the brusselisation of the CFSP. At present, the rotating Presidency leads to continuous reenlistment of the priorities of the foreign policy and emerges competitiveness amongst member states.

On the other hand, certain aspects of the CFSP lessen the strength of integration providing an axiomatic proposition that the CFSP is as intergovernmental as the ECP was. As far as the decision-making process is concerned, it is mentioned that contrary to the first pillar, the standard rule is unanimity. On matters not having military or defense implications, the Council may act by qualified majority. This process is characterized nothing more than an improved intergovernmental cooperation method [15].

Secondly, the absence of any control of the CFSP by the European Parliament as well as the non-jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on foreign and security policy issues render the democratic deficit of the CFSP more than overt [16]. The absence of political and public control is thunderous even concerning ESDP issues. Peoples simply do not know what happens not having the ability to create a point of view [17], mainly bearing in mind that ‘security requires a public consensus’ [18]. All these arguments are the main points in the literature that manifest the destitute of integrational aspects of the CFSP.

Towards a more integrated CFSP?

In effect, integration should not be equated with supranationalism or federalism. In the opposite way, compromise is a characteristic of the overall European enterprise between the member states that treated with approval the European federalism and those states that favored an enervated intergovernmentalism. The pendulum between those two trends determines the level of European integration. For instance, many have introduced ‘flexible integration’ that allows room for a two-tier EU. Paradoxically, such integration in the CFSP will broaden the differences between the member states and will hurt federalism [19].

Admittedly, the purpose of the distinct second pillar was to be ‘partially adjusted to the Community method’ [20] exactly because the governments wanted to preserve sovereignty as far as possible on foreign and security policy. Conversely, in chronological order the TEU and the CFSP was squarely characterized as ‘the next logical step’ [21]. The same happens again with the Lisbon Treaty which will provoke the shift of the pendulum towards a more integrated CFSP.

The course of the CFSP -commencing from the CFSP and ending up at the Lisbon Treaty- is one of integration. CFSP is not a mere declaratory instrument like EPC was [22]. Through its legalisation, institutionalisation and wielding of foreign policy -low or high level out-puts under ESDP operations, Common Strategy plans et cetera or integrationist diplomacy- and under the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, the CFSP meets that definition that integration is a process ‘whereby political actors in several, distinct national settings are persuaded to shift their loyalties, expectations and political activities towards a new centre, whose institutions possess or demand jurisdiction over the pre-existing national states’ [23].

Image: World on EU flag, source: google images


[1Whitman, 1998; 195-196

[2Judt, 2005

[3Griffiths, 1994

[4Whitman, 1998; 197

[5Bretherton and Vogler, 2006: 4, 190

[6Larsen, 1997: 184, Hill, 1996

[7La Serre; 1996: 32

[8Muftuler-Bac, 2007: 16

[9Whitman, 1998: 89

[10Aybet, 2007:19

[11Monar, 1997: 34

[12Whitman, 1996

[13as exposed in Larsen, 2009: 540

[14Aggestam, 2006: 22-25, Moussis, 2008

[15Moussis, 2008

[16Monar, 1997: 43, Stavridis, 1997: 136-140, Whitman, 1998: 223

[17Bailes, 2009: 129

[18Hoffmann, 2000: 198

[19see Morke, 2004: 356

[20Majone, 2005: 52

[21Hurd, 1994: 422

[22Whitman, 1998: 240

[23Ηaas, 1958: 16

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