The Irish have finally figured out the correct answer to the question posed by the referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon. What impact will the Treaty have on the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defence Policy – whose familiar acronym ESDP will soon be replaced by the CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) envisioned in Lisbon. No institutional arrangements in and of themselves can transform the attitudes and behaviour of an institution’s component parts. If the Member States were actively to resist the reforms introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, then little progress would be achievable. However, in December 2007, all twenty-seven heads of state and government signed up to the document which their domestic procedures have now ratified. This suggests that wholesale resistance (except from Prague Castle) is unlikely. Indeed, perhaps the most immediate consequence of the Irish ‘Yes’ vote will be to dispel the doom and gloom which has been hanging over the Union during the eight years of the protracted constitutional review process and to re-energise the integration project.
Lisbon came into being because it was seen by the Member States as necessary in order to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and impact of the EU itself. Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of CFSP/CSDP. Of the sixty-two amendments to the previous Treaties introduced by Lisbon no fewer than twenty-five concern CFSP/CSDP. Moreover, with the exception of the confusion in Ireland over its traditional neutrality, the national debates over these foreign and security aspects of the Treaty did not give rise in any Member State to particular issues of concern. Opinion polls consistently suggest that most Europeans see it as simple common sense that foreign and security policy be conducted at European level rather than exclusively at national level. Lisbon facilitates the move from common sense to common action.
There are five crucially important innovations in the Treaty which, taken together, should make an enormous difference in the way the EU conducts its relations with the external world:
(1) Legal Personality
A new Article 46A appears in the Lisbon Treaty and states, succinctly, that ‘The Union shall have legal personality.’ Henceforth, the EU will enjoy a status in international law which can only enhance its capacity to act with a single voice. This is particularly the case with respect to treaty-making powers and with respect to diplomatic representation. In addition, it opens the door for formal EU membership in bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and others. The EU will increasingly be able to behave like an international actor.
(2) Presidency of the European Council
Article 9B of the Lisbon Treaty introduces a long overdue and major modification by creating the position of President of the European Council. The six-monthly rotating presidency of the EU has long been seen as counter-productive – a symbol of internal incoherence, generalised confusion, erratic policy-shifts, and external incomprehension. The new President of the Council will enjoy a two and a half year mandate, renewable once. The President’s main functions will be to ‘facilitate cohesion and consensus’ within the Council, and to ‘ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy’. It is, potentially, a very powerful position.
(3) High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
The Treaty will also merge the posts of High Representative for CFSP (currently Javier Solana) and that of External Relations Commissioner (currently Benita Ferrero-Waldner). The aim is to generate far greater coordination between the two main thrusts of the EU’s international activities: development aid and crisis management. The new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR-VP) will be Vice-President of the Commission as well as the embodiment of the Council and will enjoy a five-year term.
This is the first time in the EU’s history that a position has straddled the hitherto mutually impermeable institutions of the Council and the Commission. The ramifications of this appointment are very considerable and the office is referred to no fewer than fifty-two times in the Treaty text. Moreover, the HR-VP will preside over a new European External Action Service (see below). How he or she will handle relations with powerful foreign ministries such as the Quai d’Orsay or the Foreign Office will constitute one acid test of the position.
Politically, much will depend on the first personalities to assume these functions. The job has actively been sought by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. However, his blunt diplomatic style appears to have eroded whatever support he might have enjoyed in the twenty-seven national capitals (his response to the Georgian-Russian war in August 2008 annoyed some). During the summer of 2009, the former External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten briefly emerged as a front-runner. The former German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was widely regarded as a leading candidate until the disastrous results of the recent German election.
Other names bandied about have been those of George Papandreou (but he is now about to become Greek Prime Minister), Bernard Kouchner (but Paris is wary of any Frenchman doing a job which might put him in regular conflict with the Quai d’Orsay!), the long-serving Finnish European Commissioner Olli Rehn (but London and Paris would likely oppose a candidate who had never been foreign minister of his own country and who is too closely associated with the Commission). A leading woman candidate is reputed to be Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis. Her availability might be increased by her party’s anticipated defeat in the Greek elections this Sunday. The post is still very much wide open.
The hot tip for the Council Presidency position has long been and still appears to be Tony Blair, whose case is being actively promoted by Nicolas Sarkozy and Commission President José Manuel Barroso. However, Brussels insiders see his candidacy as too divisive – as well as politically ambivalent (he is a ‘socialist’ whose main backers are on the centre right). Another name being quietly floated is that of former Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, who would have the merit of ‘balancing’ the Iberian influence of Commission President Barroso. Upon the announcement of the Irish referendum result, a new name emerged – that of former Irish President Mary Robinson, who would, at one and the same time ‘reward’ the Irish and represent both the left and women.
The unfortunate aspect of the appointment procedure is that, instead of outstanding individuals simply being selected because of their recognised qualities, there will be a series of horse-trades between different constituencies, thereby rendering the outcome almost impossible to predict. The Commission Presidency has already gone to Barroso, a European People’s Party candidate from a small Member State in South-Western Europe. One of the top jobs will therefore have to go to a socialist, almost certainly from a big Member State and also from the North or the East.
The horse-trading is likely to take place at the European Council meeting at the end of October and – Vaclav Klaus’s last stand notwithstanding – names could be announced as early as the culmination of that meeting. How they will handle their jobs and their relations with one another is anybody’s guess. Nothing is clear from the wording of the Treaty. After ratification, everything will be to play for. That is why the personalities of the first post-holders will essentially write their own job descriptions (as indeed Javier Solana did with the HR-CFSP post).
(4) The European Union External Action Service
This important new body – in effect, an EU Diplomatic Service – will work in cooperation with the diplomatic services of the Member States and will comprise officials from relevant departments of the General Secretariat of the Council and of the Commission as well as staff seconded from national diplomatic services of the Member States. It reflects the well established tendency for the Member States to resist ‘Brusselsisation’ for as long as possible, but eventually to recognise the inevitability and indeed the desirability of ever greater policy coordination and coherence.
The quasi-revolutionary implications of the EU per se having diplomatic representation around the world, with diplomats trained to speak on behalf of the Union rather than on behalf of its Member States are almost impossible to double-guess. It should, if it works as intended, help the EU to arrive at joined up foreign policies (aid, trade, soldiers, policemen, crisis management, asylum, etc.); provide more high quality and unified analysis to ministers; co-ordinate the work of Member States’ embassies in third countries; and eliminate the danger that a weak presidency (such as the Czech presidency in early 2009) can actually undermine EU foreign and security policy. This is, potentially, a major and highly significant development.
(5) Permanent Structured Cooperation
There is little in the Lisbon Treaty dealing with the development, on the part of the Union, of effective military capacity. This is, in effect, an ongoing process, which was given a serious boost under the French Presidency in the second half of 2008. A significant measure of agreement has now been reached by all Member States (including Britain) on the necessity of pooling, sharing and specialisation of military capacity. One aspect of this will be permanent structured cooperation, a new procedure introduced by the Treaty to encourage Member States to coordinate their military capacity in a variety of ways. The procedures whereby Member States may enter into permanent structured cooperation are laid out in detail both in the main body of the Treaty and in a Protocol. The key feature is that the dynamics of this procedure must be as inclusive as possible.
The objective is to mobilise the maximum capacity of which the EU is capable, drawing on whatever instruments are available from whatever source. CSDP cannot and will not work if it relies massively on a few contributors, with the others as bystanders or paymasters. If permanent structured cooperation works as intended, it could have a significant effect on the generation of EU military and civilian capacity.
The CFSP/CSDP measures introduced by the Treaty – by far the most significant part of the Treaty reforms – will not, on their own, radically change the EU’s behaviour or performance on the world stage. But, taken together, they constitute a statement, a framework, and a mechanism, which should permit and encourage ever greater coordination and even integration of the EU’s foreign, security and eventually defence policy. The extent to which they do (or do not) will depend massively on three factors:
- The first is the appointment of the personalities who will fill the key positions in the new EU and the extent to which they prove capable of working together.
- The second is the future role of the United Kingdom. If Britain, under the future leadership of David Cameron, were to call into question the current set-up, or even to leave the Union – there now being, under Lisbon, the mechanism for doing so – the future for the entire enterprise would be up in the air again. That is a possibility which cannot entirely be discounted.
- The third and by far the most important factor affecting the future of CFSP and CSDP in the EU is the direction of global geostrategy. Europe suffers from major handicaps in the emerging international pecking order: demographic decline, limited natural resources, geographical exiguity, energy dependency and military inadequacy. In a multipolar world where the other players are all unitary nation states, the EU is at a major disadvantage. Either the EU develops a unified strategic approach or it will fail.