Common foreign and security policy

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The common foreign and security policy ( CFSP ; English Common Foreign and Security Policy, CFSP , French Politique étrangère et de sécurité commune, PESC ) is a policy area of the European Union . It describes the cooperation between the EU member states in the areas of foreign , security and defense policy and is part of the "external action of the Union", which also includes areas such as development and trade policy . A sub-area of ​​the CFSP is the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), some of which have their own rules.

The CFSP was established with the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. It is a purely intergovernmental (intergovernmental) cooperation between governments; important decisions can therefore only be made unanimously by all member states in the European Council or in the Council of the European Union . The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European External Action Service subordinate to him, as well as the diplomatic services of the member states, are responsible for implementing the CFSP . In the EU Treaty , the principles of the EU's external action and the CFSP are regulated in Articles 21 to 46 .


According to Article 24 of the EU Treaty , the CFSP serves to implement the goals set out in Article 21 of the EU Treaty. It refers to:


European Council and Council of the EU

The EU's strategic interests are defined by the European Council in accordance with Article 26 of the EU Treaty . This unanimous decision also lays down the goals and general guidelines of the CFSP. On the basis of these specifications, the Council of the EU (in its composition as the Council of Foreign Ministers ) then formulates the decisions on the CFSP in detail. He also decides unanimously in principle. Only in certain cases, such as when a pure implementation decision is made for an action that has already been decided, are decisions made by a qualified majority possible. Overall, the member states of the European Union have therefore reserved very strong rights of participation in the field of foreign and security policy. Cooperation in the CFSP is intergovernmental ; Due to the unanimity principle, each member state ultimately retains full control over the development of the CFSP. In return, according to Article 31 (1) of the EU Treaty , the member states have to actively and unconditionally support the CFSP. They must work together in solidarity and refrain from any action that might affect the effectiveness of the CFSP.

A special supporting body of the Council is the Political and Security Committee (PSK, Art. 38 EU Treaty). It is made up of high-ranking officials from the national foreign ministries and usually meets twice a week. The PSC can issue opinions on the international situation, monitor the implementation of CFSP policies and can be entrusted with the management of operations for crisis management.

High Representative of the EU for Foreign and Security Policy

Josep Borrell , EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy plays a key role in the implementation of the CFSP. He also represents the EU vis-à-vis third countries and international organizations ( Art. 27 EU Treaty). The High Representative, also known colloquially as the EU Foreign Minister , is also Chairman of the Council of Foreign Ministers and Vice-President of the European Commission ; it thereby combines the foreign policy competences of both bodies. However, it is still unclear as to the exact division of responsibilities between the High Representative and the President of the European Council will be made, because this increases to Art. 15 EU Treaty "at his level and in that capacity, the powers without prejudice of the High Representative [ …], The external representation of the Union in matters of the common foreign and security policy ”. Both offices were only created in their current form with the Treaty of Lisbon 2009. Catherine Ashton and Herman Van Rompuy were the first to exercise these offices. On November 1, 2014, Federica Mogherini took over the post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Josep Borrell Fontelles became the new High Representative in December 2019 .

European External Action Service

The European External Action Service (EEAS) reports to the High Representative and was also only created with the Treaty of Lisbon ( Article 27 (3) of the EU Treaty). The EEAS builds on the previous delegations of the European Commission and also includes officials from the EU Council Secretariat and from the diplomatic services of the member states. On the proposal of the High Representative, the Council can also appoint EU special representatives for certain tasks and areas of activity ( Art. 33 EU Treaty). Currently there are nine people, each with regional deployment areas in the Balkans, the Near and Middle East and East Africa.

Other EU institutions

The European Parliament has, due to the intergovernmental nature of the CFSP only minor participation rights. According to Article 36 of the EU Treaty, the High Representative must report regularly to Parliament and "take due account" of Parliament's views in his work. Parliament can also put questions and recommendations to the Council and twice a year it holds a debate on the progress of the CFSP. The Court of Justice of the European Union is also not responsible for the CFSP under Art. 275 TFEU . He can only monitor that the institutions do not exceed their competences and deal with complaints about restrictive measures taken against individuals in the CFSP area. A prominent example of this is the Kadi case , in which the Court dealt with a list of terrorists drawn up within the framework of the CFSP. The responsible committee of the European Parliament is the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defense Policy .

The European Union Institute for Security Studies (IEUSS) is the EU's think tank and contributes to the development of the CFSP and the CSDP. To this end, the institute conducts academic research, prepares political analyzes, organizes seminars and carries out information and communication activities. The Institute has teamed up with people from the defense industry surrounded her legwork end members of the university, a so-called "Group of personalities", GoP, which for their companies in procurement of military equipment in the EU are active . This group is assigned to the "EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises", Elżbieta Bieńkowska , and published "Recommendations" in February 2016. The influence of interested business circles on EU procurement and their desire to significantly increase EU military spending is eloquently expressed in it.

Policy instruments

Under Article 31 of the EU Treaty , the EU can not issue any legislative acts within the framework of the CFSP . Instead, there are various other policy instruments that the European Council and the Foreign Affairs Council can use to define and implement the CFSP .


The European Council defines the Union's strategic interests and the general guidelines of the CFSP , which up until the Lisbon Treaty were known as Common Strategies . These are long-term political concepts that include various actions on several levels of action.

The Foreign Affairs Council may adopt the following types of decisions :

  • Actions of the Union (formerly Joint Actions ), with which the EU itself becomes operationally active in a certain area of ​​foreign policy ( Art. 28 ), for example with sanctions against other states or with the dispatch of election observers . Decisions on actions must include objectives, scope, funding, conditions and, if applicable, the period of their implementation.
  • Positions of the Union (formerly common positions ) dealing with “a specific question of geographic or thematic nature” ( Art. 29 EU Treaty). They are binding for all member states and are primarily aimed at their action.
  • Implementing decisions on the details of actions or positions already decided.

In addition, the Council can make statements with which the EU takes a position on current political events. They bind the EU and its member states politically, but have no legally binding effect.

Decisions within the framework of the CFSP can be proposed by the High Representative, but also by all Member States ( Art. 30 EU Treaty); unlike in other policy areas of the EU, the right of initiative does not only lie with the European Commission . According to Article 31 of the EU Treaty , the Council generally takes decisions unanimously, so every state has a right of veto . However, member states can also abstain from decisions and make a formal declaration. The resolutions in question then do not apply to these states, but nevertheless come into force for the others. The states that have abstained do not have to take part in the implementation, but they must not hinder it either. If at least one third of the Member States, which also represent one third of the Union's population, abstain in this way, the decision will not enter into force.

In some cases, according to Article 31, Paragraph 2 of the EU Treaty , the Council also makes decisions with a qualified majority . This happens when the Council merely specifies the requirements of the European Council, when it adopts implementing decisions on positions or actions that have already been decided, or when it appoints special representatives . However, even in these cases, each member state has a right of veto if the decision runs counter to important national policy interests. However, he must state these interests specifically. If a friendly solution cannot be found, the Council may refer the matter to the European Council . With a so-called passerelle clause , the European Council can also decide by unanimous decision that the Council will decide by a qualified majority in further cases. However, decisions with military or defense implications must, in principle, be made unanimously.

International treaties

Another important instrument of the CFSP are the international treaties that the EU, as a subject under international law , can conclude with third countries or international organizations under Article 37 of the EU treaty. The negotiations on this are conducted by the High Representative, and ratification takes place by unanimous decision of the Council.

Such international law agreements of the EU have only been possible since the Treaty of Lisbon , since it only gave the EU legal personality . Previously, only the European Community could conclude international treaties. She was a full member of numerous international organizations, such as the WTO and FAO , and was linked to numerous third countries through treaties. With the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU became the legal successor to the European Community.


The High Representative and the EU member states are jointly responsible for implementing the decisions taken within the framework of the CFSP ( Article 26 (3) of the EU Treaty). The European External Action Service , which works with the national diplomatic services, reports to the High Representative . The foreign missions of the member states and the EU delegations in third countries and at international conferences coordinate and exchange information ( Art. 35 EU Treaty). In principle, the High Representative and the Member States in the Council are obliged to ensure that there is consistency ; According to Article 24 (3) of the EU Treaty, the member states must support the CFSP “actively and without reservation in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity”. However, there are no mechanisms by which a Member State could actually be forced to implement a joint decision.

If a joint action has been decided, all member states are obliged to coordinate their own measures in this area beforehand in the Council ( Art. 28 Para. 3 EU Treaty). The Member States can only take immediate measures if absolutely necessary and only inform the Council of these afterwards. The member states also coordinate their actions in international organizations and at international conferences ( Art. 34 EU Treaty); If only individual Member States are represented, they will support the Union's positions and keep the other Member States and the High Representative informed of all relevant issues. The EU member states that are members of the United Nations Security Council also vote and support the Union's positions.

According to Article 41 of the EU Treaty, administrative expenses for the CFSP are borne entirely by the EU budget . Operational expenses are also charged to the EU, unless they relate to tasks with military or defense implications or the Council takes a corresponding unanimous decision. In this case, the operational expenditure will be borne by the Member States. States that have abstained from making a formal declaration in a decision do not have to participate in the financing of the corresponding measures.

The common security and defense policy

EUFOR emblem

A special part of the CFSP is the common security and defense policy (the ESDP, founded in 1999, is the intensification of the CFSP). It is subject to the same legal framework, but also shows some special features that are specifically regulated in Articles 42 to 46 of the EU Treaty. Missions in the area of ​​the CSDP can include joint disarmament measures, humanitarian and rescue operations, military advice, conflict prevention and peacekeeping tasks, and combat operations for crisis management and peacemaking ( Article 43 of the EU Treaty).

According to Article 42, Paragraph 2 of the EU Treaty, the CSDP does not affect the “special character of the security and defense policy of certain Member States”. This alludes both to the neutrality of Austria , Sweden and Ireland, for example , and to the NATO membership of numerous other EU member states. The CSDP is therefore expressly not intended to compete with NATO. With the Treaty of Lisbon , a reciprocal alliance obligation of all EU member states was introduced for the first time in the event of an armed attack ( Article 42 (7) EU Treaty). However, this too should leave the “special character” of the defense policy of individual member states untouched and does not regulate the form in which mutual assistance would have to be provided.

Resolutions in the area of ​​the CSDP are generally decided unanimously. In contrast to the rest of the CFSP, the CSDP does not have a passerelle clause through which the European Council can introduce majority rules in cases where unanimity is actually intended in the Council. However, if individual member states want to work together more intensively in certain areas than is possible at the level of the entire EU, they can set up permanent structured cooperation ( Art. 46 EU Treaty).

For actions within the framework of the CSDP, the EU falls back on the troops of member states that have agreed to do so. There are also multinational associations, the so-called EU Battlegroups , which can be used for short-term crisis reactions.

History of the CFSP

Although foreign policy is traditionally viewed as the core of state sovereignty and therefore there have always been considerable reservations on the part of the member states against the waiver of sovereign rights in this area, it was discussed at an early stage in the history of European integration . Shortly after the presentation of the Schuman Plan , which led to the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the French Prime Minister René Pleven presented the Pleven Plan in October 1950 , which included the establishment of a European Army under the leadership of a European Foreign Minister provided. In the Federal Republic of Germany , which at that time had not yet regained foreign policy sovereignty, the plan quickly met with approval; In 1952 the six founding states of the ECSC signed the treaty establishing the European Defense Community (EDC). This also provided for the establishment of a European Political Community (EPC) in which the foreign policy of the member states was to be summarized supranationally .

However, for various reasons, the plans to found the EDC and EPG soon encountered difficulties in the French National Assembly , which on the one hand rejected the renunciation of national sovereignty and on the other hand feared that the USA could use the founding of the EDC to reduce its number of troops in Europe and thereby shifting the burden of defending Western Europe in the Cold War onto the Europeans themselves. In 1954, the National Assembly therefore decided not to ratify the EDC Treaty, which meant that the concept of a supranational European foreign policy had failed for the time being. The European integration began instead with the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community continue (Euratom) in the economic field. The European Commission did have a commissioner for external relations and, since 1954, it has also set up missions abroad , the so-called delegations ; however, there is no coordination with the foreign ministries of the member states.

Instead of military integration, the Western European Union (WEU) was founded between the six ECSC states and Great Britain in 1955 , a collective assistance pact which , however, did not provide for common defense structures. At the same time, Germany and Italy were admitted to NATO , which in the following years established itself as the most important military alliance in the western world.

Despite the failure of the EDC, however, plans were repeatedly submitted in the following years to ensure better foreign policy cooperation between the ECSC member states. In 1960 and 1962, the French government under Charles de Gaulle presented the two Fouchet plans , which, however, were rejected by the other member states because they weakened the European Commission. After the crisis of the empty chair , the Hague Summit in 1969 decided to make a new attempt at foreign policy cooperation. For this purpose, a committee headed by the Belgian diplomat Étienne Davignon was set up, which presented its results on October 27, 1970, the so-called Davignon report . He pointed out perspectives for future foreign policy cooperation between the EC member states and recommended in particular that they speak with one voice as much as possible on the international stage. As a result, European Political Cooperation (EPC) was adopted with the Luxembourg report .

The EPZ was initially just a loose cooperation that had no formal basis in the joint agreements and for which no separate supranational institutions were set up. Rather, it consisted of loose cooperation between the governments, which agreed at international conferences, for example, in order to represent common positions whenever possible. At the conference for security and cooperation in Europe the EPZ experienced its first practical test from 1973–1975, which was successful. In the following years of Eurosclerosis, however, there were more and more conflicts between governments, which also made a closed public image impossible.

With the Uniform European Act (EEA) of 1986, the EPZ was also contractually established for the first time. The General Secretariat of the Council was also set up to facilitate coordination between governments. With the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the EPC was renamed the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and incorporated into the EU's legal framework as the second of the three pillars of the European Union . The decision-making mechanisms have now been formalized: although the unanimity of the governments was still necessary to establish a common position, unlike before, such agreed positions were now binding on all member states.

Javier Solana with Dmitry Medvedev in 2008

During the 1990s, the structures of the CFSP continued to expand; The Secretary General of the Council was appointed High Representative for the common foreign and security policy by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, and he increasingly represented the European Union at international level. The first High Representative was Javier Solana , who held the post for ten years. However, the office of High Representative was increasingly competing with that of the Foreign Commissioner , who, unlike the High Representative, was not responsible to the Council but to the European Commission , but otherwise had exactly the same areas of responsibility. In addition, there was the Presidency of the Council for General Affairs and Foreign Relations , which rotated every six months between the foreign ministers of the member states and whose tasks also partly overlapped with those of the High Representative. This threatened the need for coherence in the CFSP as well as the foreign policy differences between the member states, which became apparent during the 2003 Iraq crisis .

In the EU Constitutional Treaty of 2004, it was therefore decided to merge the three offices of the High Representative, the Foreign Commissioner and the Council President in the Council of Foreign Ministers. This new office, the so-called “little double hat ”, should be called Foreign Minister of the European Union . However, since the ratification of the constitutional treaty failed, this plan was only implemented with the Treaty of Lisbon 2007, with the term "foreign minister" being replaced by the new designation as the EU's high representative for foreign and security policy . In addition, the European External Action Service was created with the Lisbon Treaty , which is intended to make the coordination of the CFSP much easier. In addition, the structure of the three pillars was dissolved and the EU was given its own legal personality , which should facilitate its appearance on the international stage. However, the decision-making mechanisms, which are still based on the principle of unanimity among all member states' governments, have not changed.

With the end of the Cold War, the idea of ​​a European defense regained importance. As early as the 1980s there had been plans to reactivate the Western European Union , which, apart from NATO, had hardly any significance of its own. In 1992, the WEU, which was linked to the EU as a permanent partner under the Maastricht Treaty , decided to take on the so-called Petersberg tasks , which included humanitarian and rescue operations, peacekeeping tasks and combat operations in crisis management. Nevertheless, the European Union proved to be largely incapable of action in the bloody conflicts in the crumbling Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Stabilization actions could only be carried out here by NATO, and mostly under US command. With the Treaty of Nice 2001, the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP, later CSDP) was therefore included in the EU Treaty as part of the CFSP, the resources of which were gradually expanded in the following years. With the Lisbon Treaty of 2007, the EU Treaty was finally provided with a mutual assistance clause, as it had previously only existed in the WEU Treaty at European level outside of NATO. The WEU had lost its importance and was therefore dissolved in 2010 - after the Lisbon Treaty came into force.


in force
European Act
  Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif
European Communities Three pillars of the European Union
European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)
European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Contract expired in 2002 European Union (EU)
    European Economic Community (EEC) European Community (EC)
      Justice and Home Affairs (JI)
  Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (PJZS)
European Political Cooperation (EPC) Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
Western Union (WU) Western European Union (WEU)    
dissolved on July 1, 2011

Political relevance

The GASP and its design is essentially based on the initiative and commitment of the Federal Republic of Germany and is accordingly also seen as a German project in more nationally oriented countries such as France and Great Britain . For the non- NATO members in the EU, such as Finland and Austria, it has become an important foreign policy participation instrument.

In the wake of Resolution 1973 of the UN Security Council and the European disagreement in dealing with the civil war in Libya (2011) , some foreign politicians criticized the Federal Republic of Germany's alleged departure from the CFSP, as well as the failure of the CFSP-based management of foreign policy conflicts in the community. With a view to the war in Ukraine since 2014 , the CFSP was seen as an opportunity to find a common solution, but it was not used due to disagreement in the strategic handling of Russia. Instead, with the overcoming of the war in Ukraine, NATO once again gained major importance as a foreign and security policy actor in Europe.


See also

Web links


  1. High Representative / Vice-President. Retrieved January 14, 2020 .
  2. Corrigendum to Joint Action 2006/1002 / CFSP of the Council of December 21, 2006 amending Joint Action 2001/554 / CFSP concerning the establishment of a European Union Institute for Security Studies (PDF)
  3. ^ GoP report: European Defense Research. The case for an EU-funded defense R&T program. Report of the Group of Personalities on the Preparatory Action for CSDP-related research , 110 pages, in English. - Foreword Bieńkowska - R&T means "Research and Technology", research and development
  4. Steffen Murau, Kilian Spandler: EU, US and ASEAN Actorness in G20 Financial Policy-Making: Bridging the EU Studies – New Regionalism Divide . In: JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies . tape 54 , no. 4 , July 1, 2016, ISSN  1468-5965 , p. 928-943 , doi : 10.1111 / jcms.12340 ( [accessed July 4, 2017]).
  5. ^ Reimund Seidelmann, 2001: Problems and Prospects of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and European Security and Defense Policy (CESDP): A German View .
  6. Gerhard Hafner , 2006: Austria and the GASP: 10 years of participation , In: Hummer & Obwexer (Hrsg.), 2006: 10 years of Austria's EU membership - balance sheet and outlook , pp. 109-138, doi : 10.1007 / 978- 3-211-69463-3_7 .
  7. Annegret Bendiek, 2015: EU foreign policy: Ukraine crisis could be a catalyst for more integration .
  8. Markus Kaim, 2015: NATO is back - NATO is the winner of the Ukraine crisis, not European foreign policy .