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Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)

Created: 2014.02.18 / Updated: 2018.10.30 10:41

The EU member states have committed themselves to a Common Foreign Security Policy (CFSP) for the European Union, which enables them to speak – and act – as one in global affairs.

An integral part of the CFSP is the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), which aims to strengthen the EU's external ability to contribute to international peace and security and to act in conflict prevention and crisis management.  

The main tasks of the CFSP are the following:

  • defending core EU interests and independence;
  • strengthening European security;
  • preserving world peace and enhancing international security;
  • promoting international cooperation; consolidating democracy and the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The Structure of the CFSP

Representatives of the member states meet within the framework of the European Council at least four times a year to define general principles and guidelines for the CFSP. The European Council acting unanimously adopts common strategies that represent common economic interests of the member states.

More about the European Council Conclusions: european-council.europa.eu

The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) is composed of the foreign ministers from all EU member states. The FAC meets once a month. It defines and implements the CFSP, based on guidelines set by the European Council. Meetings of the FAC are chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) sets the agenda for the FAC meetings.

Read more about the Foreign Affairs Council: consilium.europa.eu

The Political and Security Committee (PSC) is responsible for keeping track of the international situation and for the political control and strategic direction of EU military operations. In the event of a crisis, the PSC plays a key role in defining a coherent EU response to the crisis. European correspondents from the foreign ministries of the member states maintain day-to-day contact on the CFSP issues through the COREU network (CORrespondence EUropéenne) and help the PSC coordinate its daily CFSP business. The COREU network facilitates the exchange of information between the EU member states, the European Commission and the General Secretariat of the Council.

The European Commission participates in the meetings of the Council and its preparatory administrative bodies and political dialogue with third countries. The Directorate-General for External Relations of the European Commission is also responsible for strengthening and deepening relationships with NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe.

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy represents the Union for matters relating to the CFSP, conducts political dialogue with third parties on the Union’s behalf and expresses the Union’s position in international organizations and conferences. The High Representative conducts the CFSP, helps the Council make political decisions and implement them.

Decision making

Decisions on the CFSP are taken unanimously. Member states may abstain to avoid blocking the decision-making process. When abstaining in a vote, a member shall not be obliged to apply the decision, but shall accept that the decision commits the EU.

The Council shall act by qualified majority (in accordance with Article 31 of the Treaty on European Union):

  • when adopting a decision implementing a decision of the European Council relating to the Union’s strategic interests and objectives;
  • when adopting a decision defining a Union action or position, on a proposal which the High Representative has presented following a request from the European Council (shall not apply to decisions having military or defence implications);
  • when adopting any decision implementing a decision defining a Union action or position (shall not apply to decisions having military or defence implications);
  • when appointing a special representative;
  • the European Council may unanimously adopt a decision stipulating that the Foreign Affairs Council shall act by a qualified majority in cases other than those mentioned above.

If a member declares that, for vital and stated reasons of national policy, it intends to oppose the adoption of a decision to be taken by qualified majority, a vote shall not be taken. In the absence of a solution acceptable to the member state, the Foreign Affairs Council may, acting by a qualified majority, request that the matter be referred to the European Council for a decision by unanimity.

The European Commission and the Parliament also participate in the decision-making process. The European Commission ensures coherence between actions of the Community and the CFSP. The Parliament issues opinions and approves the budget.

More info: eeas.europa.eu

European External Action Service

The European External Action Service (EEAS) was established by a Council Decision on 26 July 2010. The EEAS was officially launched on 1 January 2011.

The EEAS is the EU’s diplomatic service. It supports the High Representative Federica Mogherini in conducting the CFSP.

The EEAS is composed of expert staff transferred from the General Secretariat of the Council (GSC), member states and the European Commission. According to the data for January 2014, there were 11 Lithuanian citizens working in the EEAS Headquarters in Brussels and 12 citizens in EU Delegations in third countries. The High Representative:

  • conducts the EU’s Common Foreign Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy' (CSDP);
  • contributes by submitting proposals to the development of the policy, which the High Representative will carry out as mandated by the Council, and ensures implementation of the decisions adopted in this field;
  • presides over the Foreign Affairs Council;
  • is one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission and ensures the consistency of the Union’s external action;
  • represents the Union for matters relating to the CFSP, conducts political dialogue with third parties on the Union’s behalf and expresses the Union’s position in international forums;
  • exercises authority over the EEAS and over the Union delegations in third countries and at international organizations.

More info: eeas.europa.eu

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