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European foreign policy: the impact of enlargement: Stephen Hoadley suggests that earlier negative predictions about the likely effect of enlarging the European Union on European foreign policy have not been borne out.

The European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy (known widely by its initials 'CFSP') is relatively new. It was proclaimed as recently as 1992, in the Treaty of European Union (or Maastricht Treaty). It was amplified in the Amsterdam Treaty signed in 1997, the Treaty of Nice signed 2001, and the Constitutional Treaty signed in 2004. In the decade of its existence, the CFSP has been further elaborated in a number of EU directives and regulations, and manifested in a variety of common strategies, positions, delegations, and actions by members. Meanwhile the European Union has grown in membership to 25, with a half-dozen more countries aspiring to join. And the French and Dutch 'no' votes on the Constitutional Treaty have stalled institutional reforms in the CFSP. Is a common foreign and security policy within reach of such a diverse Union?

The idea of a Europe speaking with one voice in world affairs has deep historical roots, some say springing from Immanuel Kant's 18th century vision of a Perpetual Peace. Since the Second World War, and because of that war, the ideal of European states working together for peace and prosperity rather than perpetuating aggression and devastation has motivated statesmen from France, Germany, Britain, and even the United States.

But the Cold War divided Europe East from West, and far-flung commitments, notably by Britain and France but also Netherlands, Belgium, and Portugal, diverted leaders' energies into shoring up empires or defending national prerogatives. Granted, the Europeans co-operated in collective defence against the Soviet threat through the Brussels Treaty and the North Atlantic Treaty in the 1940s. But the visionary European Defence Community sank on the rocks of Gaullism in the 1950s, and in the 1960s the NATO HQ was expelled from Paris. Other governments, notably Britain and Germany, linked their security to the United States rather than 'Europe'.

Economic co-operation

Nevertheless European co-operation in economic and social affairs progressed in the following decades. In the 1950s coal and steel and atomic energy production were co-ordinated and later common trade protectionism and agricultural subsidies were initiated. They succeeded by a process known as 'functionalism', that is a series of pragmatic incremental changes adopted by governments to provide material benefits to all members. Another process, 'spill-over', induced growing European co-operation in social, cultural, and legal spheres, partly to support economic co-operation and partly to increase consistency and reduce cross-boundary transaction costs in related policy sectors. Political vision was subordinated to practicality.

Foreign and defence policy remained outside the deepening network except as harmonised by NATO participation. France regarded neither NATO nor Great Britain as truly 'European' and some European countries remained neutral or less than wholeheartedly committed to the American-led collective defence effort. Each member state pursued its own foreign and defence policy unilaterally, although in practice considerable convergence with European neighbours, bilaterally or through United Nations or NATO channels, was achieved by voluntary consultation and adaptation.

Evolving policy

In the 1970s proponents of a more proactive Europe smuggled the idea of a common foreign and defence policy into a blandly labelled initiative called European Political Co-operation. (1) EPC evolved gradually and was adopted formally by member governments in the Single European Act of 1987. For two decades it legitimised a number of joint European declarations and, more concretely, the use of economic aid and sanctions and observer missions to promote better human rights and provide disaster relief. The outcome was often more rhetorical than muscular, but the process was successful in inculcating in leaders and officials the habit of European foreign and security policy harmonisation, if not co-ordination.

European leaders were obliged to rethink in the early 1990s. The new circumstances they faced included:

* the end of the Soviet threat,

* the emergence of a hegemonic United States,

* the beginning of the Balkan wars,

* the upsurge of strife and humanitarian disasters in Africa and Asia,

* the emergence of unconventional security threats, and

* the rising demand for peacekeeping and peace support operations.

This time the Eurovisionaries won the debate against the nationalists--but only barely. In the Maastricht Treaty members adopted an entire chapter on a European foreign and security policy, and elaborated it in the subsequent Amsterdam and Nice treaties. Foreign and security policy was assigned to a distinct 'pillar' (broad policy sector), as were economic and trade policy and justice and home affairs policies, respectively, in the current 'three pillar' structure of the European Union. (2)

Truncated pillar

Unlike the trade and economic policy which was 'communitarianised' and made subject to majority voting and amenable to European Commission regulation, the foreign and security policy pillar was carefully hedged. (3)

First, the CFSP was (and still is) to be decided by the European Council (heads of governments) or the Council of the European Union (ministers), that is, by unanimous approval by the leaders or representatives of member governments. This assured that each member, no matter how small or new, retained either a veto or the power to delay. In a device to prevent paralysis, members have acknowledged the right of any to stand aside from a particular decision so those who are willing can proceed.

Second, a separate CFSP institution, the High Representative and his supporting staff, was set up. This institution is distinct from the European Commission (the administrative arm of the European Union, based in Brussels) and from the Commissioner for External Relations (who deals mainly with trade issues). The foreign and security policy process now engages a hierarchy of decision-making, consultative, and advisory bodies that include

* the European Council (heads of government)

* the General Affairs and External Relations Council (ministers)

* the Committee of Permanent Representatives (ambassadors)

* the Political and Security Committee (ambassadors)

* the High Representative for CFSP Oavier Solana)

* the CFSP Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit.

The whole apparatus, plus advisory agencies associated with the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), remains firmly under the control of the political councils of member governments and their delegate, the six-monthly rotating Presidency (currently Great Britain).

Defence co-operation

While member states have become comfortable with common foreign trade and aid policies and with foreign policy declarations and sanctions, they are more cautious with defence policies. In careful phrases, the Maastricht Treaty provided for 'the progressive framing of a common defence policy, which might lead to a common defence' (my emphasis). The phrasing was tortuous, but it made possible a workable compromise between those members (Britain, Germany) committed to NATO and other members (France, Belgium) that wished to promote more Europe-based defence arrangements in future.

Denmark distanced itself from even this cautious step to declare a permanent opt-out from decisions on military affairs (and, like Britain, does not participate in the monetary union, use the Euro currency, or observe the Schengen migration regime). Other members have avoided breaking ranks in public but have made minimal or no military contributions to the European Union's recent peacekeeping deployments.

Nevertheless in the Amsterdam Treaty the EU members declared a nascent European Security and Defence Policy. (4) Soon thereafter a series of humanitarian challenges in the Balkans and Africa precipitated the amplification of the policy, new commitments by members, and the dispatch of European troops and police for peacekeeping and preventive diplomacy. But deference to NATO remains a fundamental posture of EU members, accepted even by France.

Growing diversity

As the European Union was developing its CFSP and ESDP in the 1990s, it was also negotiating with neighbouring governments that wished to join. In 2004 ten new members entered the Union: three Baltic states, five Eastern European states, and two Mediterranean island states. This expanded EU membership from 15 to 25 and made the Union more populous and larger in aggregate GDP than the United States. But the new members were relatively underdeveloped and their foreign policy and defence capabilities were uneven.

And they brought into the Union a variety of neighbourhood concerns that only peripherally concerned the core members nearer to Brussels. For instance, the Baltics, particular Lithuania, were preoccupied by Russia, and urged the Union to take a strong stance against human rights abuses, economic pressures, and demands for concessions for Kaliningrad and privileges for Russian citizens. Poland highlighted the problem of Russian criminal networks operating across the Kaliningrad-Poland border and appealed for EU funds to bolster border control. But Warsaw resisted an offer from Berlin to send German border guards because of lingering sensitivities regarding the Nazi period.

Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia took the lead in urging EU intervention to support of democratic reforms in neighbouring Ukraine and were successful. Also, the liberal central European members when still candidates vigorously supported EU censuring of the government of Fidel Castro for human rights abuses. Harsh EU action was resisted by Spain, whose entrepreneurs have commercial interests in Cuba, but from 2002 to 2005 the EU issued 19 statements critical of Cuba and imposed a cultural and high-level-visit embargo, for which the candidate members were given credit.

Slovenia was identified as a transit country for people smuggling and trafficking to Europe from Turkey and the Middle East ('the Balkan route'), and was obliged to make costly reforms in its border and police administration, for which it claimed reimbursement. Its position was complicated by disputes with neighbouring Croatia over a boundary and

a nuclear power plant, and in 2004 it withdrew its support for Croatia's application to join the European Union. (Slovenia has since resumed support for Croatia, subject to Zagreb's satisfying the ICTY's warrant for the arrest of a suspected war criminal).

Cyprus, split by the rump entity of Turkish Cypriots on its north-east, was of special concern to the European Union and agitated for a settlement before it would support Turkey for EU membership. Malta became a transit point for illegal migrants travelling by boat, and Italy, which ended up with the migrants, was obliged to assist the Maltese authorities cope with their joint problem.

Atlanticist bent

Furthermore, in a distinction made famous by Donald Rumsfeld's 'old Europe versus new Europe' characterisation and the clash between the signatories of the 'letter of eight' supporting US policy in Iraq and French President Jacques Chirac, the new members were thought to be more 'Atlanticist' than the core of the European Union. It was surmised that they would support NATO and US policy rather than support a more European-centred foreign and security policy. (5) French nationalists suspected that, at best, they would side with Britain rather than the Franco-German core, and at worst they would split the Union.

Other differences were identified as contributors to fragmentation and paralysis. These included the demands by the poor members for subsidies from the rich, the constraints the small members would try to impose on the large, and the political uncertainties ten new sets of domestic lobby groups, non-governmental organisations, and legislatures would pose for national decision-makers. Finally, it became almost a cliche to say that expanding all the EU councils and committees and working groups from 15 to 25 would slow the decision process to a walk, if not a crawl.

Dire predictions

Recent interviews with officials in Europe indicate that predictions of dire effects of enlargement on foreign policy decision-making were not borne out. (6) First, enlightened leaders recognised the intrinsic merits of the border control, crime, and human rights concerns of the new members, and their preoccupation with Russia and Ukraine, and adopted EU policies to take them into account. Second, the new members themselves took the opportunity to 'shut up' (a phrase made notorious by Jacques Chirac) on issues that did not concern them directly, such as challenges in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and let the old members take the initiatives--and bear the costs and risks..

Third, it transpired that the new members were not so new after all. Some had been candidate members for eight years and had gradually adopted the EU acquis (accumulated body of policies and regulations), begun sitting as observers in the decision-making councils and working committees, and acquired experience working with their counterparts. In effect, they had become 'socialised' into EU ways even before they formally became members. Enlargement Day was not a radical break with the past for them or for the institutions of the Union.

A year down the track, one finds the European Union's CFSP more textured, more nuanced, and broader in scope, but not fundamentally altered by the enlargement. The decision-making process is no more slow or cautious than it always has been, given that it must forge a new consensus on each issue on the agenda among a shifting variety of sovereign states. The new members have been respectful of the existing commitments and ways of the European Union and have not obstructed the process. Except where their specific interests were affected, they have accepted the leadership of the core members, particularly on matters distant from Europe.

Fault line

The main fault line appears now to be not between the new and old members but rather between the old members themselves, notably between France and Britain. There is no evidence that the new members have ganged up with Britain against France. It was Britain that in June blocked the new budget framework by insisting on its historic rebate, a payment that would actually divert an increment of EU subsidy away from the new members. New members have reason to be just as sceptical of Britain as of France.

The complexity of European foreign policy will continue to grow as varying coalitions of members coalesce around differing issues. But the overarching aims of European foreign policy--the pursuit of conflict prevention, trade access, economic development, and human rights protection--and the European Union's established institutions and processes will impart a consistent direction, an increasing coherence, and an ultimate effectiveness to the outcome. The stalling of the Constitutional Treaty may delay some elaborations, such as establishing an EU Foreign Minister and diplomatic corps, but will not interfere with present institutions and capabilities.

In conclusion, few governments find EU foreign policies objectionable, compared with aspects of American, Russion and Chinese policies, for example. Some analysts are predicting that the European Union will surpass the United States as an international role model. (7) It is the achievments of the European Union's CFSP, not the hesitations and omissions, that should be kept in view.

The foreign policy of the European Union has evolved slowly and cautiously, often criticised as indecisive and incoherent. The recent addition of ten new members risked further dilution of the fledgling Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). But predictions of fragmentation and paralysis have not been borne out, and foreign policy convergence continues, albeit with greater diversity of manifestations. A year down the track the CFSP is more textured, more nuanced, and broader in scope, but not fundamentally altered by the enlargement. It is the achievements of the CFSP, not the hesitations and omissions, that should be kept in view.


(1.) On the evolution of the CFSP see Martin Holland (ed), Common Foreign and Security Policy: The First Ten Years (London, 2004) and Elfreide Regelsberger et al (eds), Foreign Policy of the European Union: From EPC to CFSP and Beyond (Boulder, 1997).

(2.) See Fraser Cameron (ed),Future of Europe: integration and enlargement (London, 2004).

(3.) For CFSP policy and institutions see en.htm.

(4.) On ESDP evolution see Stephen Hoadley, 'Europe's rapid reaction force', NZIR, vol 26, no 4 (2001). The EU's ESDP homepage may be found at Page.asp?id=261&lang=EN.

(5.) Esther Brimmer and Stefan Froehlich (eds), The Strategic implications of European Union Enlargement (Washington, 2005). See the Center's website for useful monographs on Europe-US relations: ations/books monographs.htm.

(6.) The University of Auckland's Research Committee and Arts Faculty Research Fund are thanked for making possible my research visit to Brussels and Ljubljana in June 2005.

(7.) See writings by Mark Leonard and others at the Centre for European Reform at

Stephen Hoadley is an Associate Professor of Political Studies at the University of Auckland and Corresponding Editor of the NZIR.
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Author:Hoadley, Stephen
Publication:New Zealand International Review
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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