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Common Foreign and Security Policy

The Presidency's key task is to coordinate action taken under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP – the Second Pillar of the EU) with the other 26 EU member states, the High Representative for the CFSP and the European Commission.

The EU is increasingly perceived as a global player. Many foreign policy issues can only be resolved through close collaboration among EU member states. For this reason, foreign policy issues are being discussed to an ever greater extent within the framework of the CFSP in Brussels. The EU wants to make its contribution towards maintaining international peace through the Common Foreign and Security Policy. It promotes international security, and champions democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The 27 member states work on an intergovernmental basis and establish common positions within the CFSP.

Since the Maastricht Treaty came into force on 1 November 1993, the EU can act on the international stage within the framework of the CFSP and state its position on armed conflicts, human rights issues, or other issues related to the basic principles and shared values that underpin the EU, and which it is committed to defending.

Since the European Council on 12 and 13 December 2003 adopted the European Security Strategy (EUSS), the EU's scope for action and its strategic guidelines within the CFSP have been clearly defined. The EUSS is the frame of reference for any action taken by EU member states within the context of the CFSP.

Institutions, coordination and decisions in Brussels

In order to increase the efficiency and external impact of the EU's foreign policy, the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) created the post of High Representative for the CFSP. Javier Solana has held this post since 18 October 1999. In the Brussels institutions, the High Representative, as well as representatives of the 27 EU member states, also devise short and medium-term responses to crisis situations.

The provisions of the CFSP were recently amended by the Treaty of Nice, which came into force on 1 February 2003. The most important change is an increase in the number of policy areas in which majority voting is possible. The Political and Security Committee (PSC) was also set up. It usually meets twice a week to make decisions on CFSP issues and monitor the conduct of operations under the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).

The CFSP has three instruments which are used regularly:

  • Joint Actions
  • Common Positions
  • Common Strategies

Common Strategies usually cover a period of four years; three have been adopted to date: Russia in June 1999, Ukraine in December 1999, and the Mediterranean in June 2000.

Political instruments of the CFSP

The conclusions of the meetings of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, which are devised, agreed upon and finalized in intensive consultations among the member states, are a key political instrument. The possibility of issuing statements on behalf of the EU and making representations to governments in non-member states is also politically significant.

The EU special representatives (EUSRs) form another important CFSP instrument. At present, there are EUSRs for Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Middle East peace process, the Great Lakes, the Sudan, the Southern Caucasus, Central Asia and Moldova.

CFSP priorities

The current geographical priorities of the CFSP are the Western Balkans, the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as the conflict zones of Africa. The priority issues are the fight against terrorism, non-proliferation, conflict prevention, human rights, and the reinforcement of effective multilateralism.


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Date: 03.01.2008