The Unions External Relations
The Constitutional Treaty defines the fundamental values and objectives pursued by the European Union in the world and also establishes the prerequisites for more efficiency and consistency in the organisation of external relations as a whole.
For this purpose, the aspects of external relations regulated hitherto partly by the EC Treaty ('first pillar') and partly by the TEU ('second pillar') are combined under the title "the Union's external action", thus abolishing the pillar architecture. This title comprises:
- The 'communitised areas' with strong supranational structures, in which the Union has exclusive competence (commercial policy) or shared competence (mainly in the field of development cooperation). In general, the following principles are applied as a rule: the Commission’s monopoly on initiative, the ordinary legislative procedure with decisions by qualified majority in the Council, and the co-decision procedure of the European Parliament, and the judicial control of all legal acts by the European Court of Justice.
- The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CESDP or ESDP), in which the structures of the Union are still extensively based on intergovernmental cooperation and decision-making mechanisms, whereas supranational structures are only slowly beginning to have an impact.
Although a number of different rules are still applied in these areas, the following provisions establish a stronger and more consistent comprehensive framework:
- Determination of primary objectives for the Union’s action in the world: promotion of democracy, rule of law, human rights; peacekeeping, conflict prevention, sustainable development, protection of the environment, eradication of poverty, integration of all countries in the global economy, etc.
- Establishment of the office of a Union Minister for Foreign Affairs supported by a European External Action Service. This Minister for Foreign Affairs combines the functions of the coordinating commissioner for external relations and the present High Representative for the CFSP, and will thus ensure consistency of the external action as a whole and a unified EU representation in the world.
- Determination of the strategic interests and objectives of the Union’s policy through decisions of the European Council and joint proposals of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Commission;
- Unified regulation in a single article of the procedure for the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements. The negotiations are conducted either by the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Commission, depending on the subject matter. Additional competences with respect to the conclusion of international agreements are conferred on the European Parliament (right of consent to agreements in fields governed by the legislative procedure).
In addition, there is a general solidarity clause, which states that the Union should assist a Member State who is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster. This includes military resources. The choice of the specific instruments to be made available, however, devolves to the individual Member State.
For the classic foreign, security and defence policy - the CFSP and the CESDP - the principle of unanimity is largely maintained. Decisions by a qualified majority are - as in the past - reserved for certain implementing measures and the appointment of special representatives, and - from now on - in cases where the Minister for Foreign Affairs submits a proposal following a specific request of the European Council. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has the right to make proposals but has no monopoly of initiative. Acts of the CFSP are not subject to review and control by the European Court of Justice. The European Parliament has a right to be consulted or informed only.
In addition, the following special provisions apply to the CESDP. In contrast to other CFSP expenditure, operating expenditure for military activities is not charged to the Union budget but is normally shared among the participating Member States in accordance with the gross national product scale. The main provisions relating to the CESDP are as follows:
- The objective of the progressive framing of a common defence policy which will lead to a common defence. This policy must not, however, prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States (such as Austria). A common defence can be introduced only if adopted by the Council acting unanimously and ratified by all Member States.
- The orientation of the CESDP towards the so-called "Petersberg tasks" (operations drawing on civil and military assets for peacekeeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security outside the Union);
- The possibility for the Council to entrust a group of Member States with more demanding missions (decision adopted by all Member States);
- The establishment of permanent structured cooperation - open to all Member States - between Member States with higher military capacities based on objective criteria adopted by a decision of the Council;
- An assistance clause stipulating that if a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States assist it, employing means of their choice; this assistance shall not, however, prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States with commitments to neutrality or the assistance obligations of Member States belonging to NATO. Hence the neutral and non-aligned Member States may decide on the extent of their assistance on a case by case basis.
- A separate legal basis for the European Agency in the field of defence capability development, research, acquisition and armaments (European Defence Agency).
As for the 'communitised' areas of the Union’s external action, the following provisions in the Constitution are of particular interest:
The commercial policy (including services, the commercial aspects of intellectual property, direct investment) is an exclusive Union competence. The framework provisions are for the first time adopted under the ordinary legislative procedure. As a rule, the Council adopts mandates for the negotiation and conclusion of trade agreements by a qualified majority. The principle of unanimity is maintained, however, particularly for negotiation mandates and the conclusion of agreements relating to direct investment, cultural and audiovisual services and social, education and health services.
Development cooperation is a shared competence 'sui generis', especially since the Member States may continue their activities even if the Union exercises its competence. The general objectives of development cooperation are peacekeeping, protection and preservation of the environment and of natural resources, promotion of sustainable development, and - as the core goal - combating poverty. These objectives are also to be considered horizontally in all other political fields.