EU Foreign Policy (CFSP)

An important responsibility of the Austrian Foreign and European Policy is to contribute to and to implement the so-called Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). It is the political pillar of the external action of the EU. The EU accession process (preceding the entry of new Member States into the EU) , the European Neighbourhood policy, External Trade, Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid are also part of EU foreign policy.

Within the framework of CFSP, the EU Member States cooperate on an intergovernmental basis, i.e. they agree on common positions by unanimity. Since the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty on 1 November 1993, the EU as such may act on the international stage and elaborate the EU position on armed conflicts, human rights issues or other matters in coherence with EU basic principles and common values which it is obliged to uphold.

To achieve greater efficiency and visibility of EU foreign policy, it was decided upon the creation of the position of High Representative for CFSP in the Amsterdam Treaty. This position was filled by Javier Solana between 18 October 1999 and 1 December 2009. The CFSP provisions were revised in the Treaty of Nice which entered into force on 1 February 2003. The Treaty of Nice extended the number of areas within CFSP where  decisions by majority are possible. In addition, the Political and Security Committee was created. It normally meets twice per week to make decisions on CFSP issues and to monitor the implementation of operations and missions within the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

The Treaty of Lisbon (in force since 1 December 2009) brought significant reforms to CFSP structures (cf. Title V, Articles 21-46 of the Treaty on European Union). It introduced the European External Action Service (EEAS) as a new European Union institution which is headed by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In order to ensure a maximum of coherence in the European Union’s external action the High Representative is also Commissioner for External Action and Vice-President of the Commission, coordinating the CFSP and external relations of the Commission. Since November 2009, Baroness Catherine Ashton  holds the position of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Her term of office will expire in October 2014.

The High Representative chairs the Foreign Affairs Council which is comprised of the foreign ministers of the EU Member States and which normally meets at least once per month. The Council is the central decision-making body for CFSP and CSDP. 

There are several CFSP instruments which are regularly applied:

As the member states’ supreme decision-making body, the European Council also determines strategic objectives and general guidelines for CFSP (cf. Article 26 of the Treaty on European Union). The European Council’s decisions are not legally, but “politically” binding the EU Member States. Implementation is the responsibility of the Foreign Affairs Council.

The Foreign Affairs Council adopts legal acts in the form of Decisions of the Council, which establish actions to be undertaken by the EU (e.g. CSDP operations and missions) as well as positions to be adopted by the EU (e.g. imposing restrictive measures on a particular country). (cf. Article 25 of the Treaty on European Union)

In pursuit of its political objectives, the EU makes use of restrictive measures (sanctions), which the Council imposes principally on representatives of Third States’ governments but also on state enterprises and other legal and natural persons. A distinction is drawn here between sanctions which the EU adopts “autonomously” and those which it is obliged to adopt on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution.

The conclusions on CFSP of meetings of the Foreign Affairs Councils and the European Council, finalised following intensive consultations of EU Member States and EEAS, are a key political instrument.

Also of political importance is the possibility of making EU statements and undertaking demarches to government representatives in non-member countries. 

Political dialogue with non-member states (and groups of states or organizations) has developed into an important and frequently used instrument. The institutional framework for political dialogue is established in agreements (e.g. association, partnership or cooperation agreements), joint declarations or exchanges of letters. At the Heads of State and Government level, the EU is represented by the President of the European Council; at foreign ministers level, the High Representative takes on that role.

Another CFSP instrument are EU Special Representatives (EUSR).There are , currently , for instance, EUSRs for Human Rights, Bosnia and Herzegovina or the African Union.