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Antonio Luzzi

CFSP High Representative Strengths and Weaknesses

Department of EU International Relations and Diplomacy Promotion Marcus Aurelius 2008/2009 Prof. D.Mahncke: The EU as a Foreign Policy Actor

The High Representative for the CFSP was introduced by the Amsterdam Treaty in the late 1990s. What is the role of the High Representative and on what does his influence rest? Assess both strengths and weaknesses and to what extent they are addressed by the Lisbon Treaty.

Author: Antonio Luzzi

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Antonio Luzzi

CFSP High Representative Strengths and Weaknesses

Since the beginning of the European integration project, a voluntary cooperation among member states in the field of foreign policy has often occurred. The debate between the two main ideological views of Europe: the supranational and the intergovernmental one, has directed the leitmotiv in the uneasy search of a more efficient, coherent and functional European Foreign Policy1. The introduction of the High-Representative of the CFSP by the Amsterdam Treaty initiated an evolution that affected all the EU foreign policy mechanisms. Even if the Treaty was rather vague about its role, the appointment of Javier Solana, a strong political figure, helped to enhance the influence beyond the Treaty Provisions. Although Solana had to cope with the weight of the member states, he was able to establish a good relationship with the Commission, an element that brought about the introduction of the two-hatted High-Representative in the Lisbon Treaty. The development of this figure will be in the future a key element in both internal and external dynamics of the European Union in the field of Foreign Policy. The Amsterdam Treaty, signed by member states in 1997, introduced several innovations in the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy such as the concept of ‘constructive abstention’ and the ‘common strategy’ instrument2. The most important innovation, however, was the introduction of the figure of the Secretary-General/High-Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (SG/HR). The Treaty on European Union, gives to the SG/HR the responsibility of assisting the presidency and the Council: ‘in matters coming within the scope of the common foreign and security policy, in particular through contributing to the formulation, preparation and implementation of policy decisions, and, when appropriate and acting on behalf of the Council at the request of the Presidency, through conducting political dialogue with third parties’. 3 The main objective of this choice was to create a figure that would strengthen EU’s visibility in its external relations in general. At the moment of the creation of the HR in fact, the Commission and the European Parliament requested the ICG to nominate a Commissioner, in order to provide a more reliable bridge between the first and second pillar. The member states, that feared a too strong Commission, decided that the new HR would also be the Secretary General of the Council, assisted by the Policy Unit, an institution that lies within the Council’s Secretariat, giving CFSP a precise intergovernmental feature.4 In 1999, the European Council in Cologne nominated Javier Solana as the first HighRepresentative for the CFSP. Behind this choice lied a clear political willingness by the member states to give significant importance to this post. Solana was the former Spanish Foreign Minister 1

W.Wessels, ‘Theoretical Perspectives: CFSP beyond the Supranational and Intergovernmental Dichotomy’ ESDP’ in Dieter Mahncke, Alicia Ambos & Christopher Reynolds (eds.), European Foreign Policy: From Rhetoric to Reality?, Brussels, Pieter Lang, 2004, pp.63-64. 2

R.Francia & M.A., Medina Abbelàn, ‘Striving for a Common Foreign Policy. A Brief History’, in Mahncke, Ambos & Reynolds (eds.), op.cit., pp.139-141 3

ART. 26 (TEU).

4

Francia & Medina Abbelàn, loc.cit.

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Antonio Luzzi

CFSP High Representative Strengths and Weaknesses

and NATO Secretary-General, recognized by the international community as a skilled diplomat and a bright politician that could rely on an extended network of contacts. 5 This high political figure improved the ‘visibility and effectiveness’ of the CFSP by bringing for instance, success in the conflict prevention campaign in FYROM in 2002-2003 and in the mediation between Serbia and Montenegro6. During his mandate, Solana had to cope however with several limitations that his political and diplomatic skills could not overcome. The treaty of Amsterdam gives in fact to the High-Representative vague policy making powers. Moreover, the HR has to act on the basis of a mandate given to him by member states and supported by instruments that do not fall under his control.7 It becomes clear that member states exert a significant influence over the HighRepresentative. The complexity behind policy making mechanisms in the second pillar represent a considerable challenge to the High-Representative in guiding a more coherent European foreign policy. The unanimity requirement implies consensus among member states in order to adopt a position.8 This makes the relationship between the High-Representative and member states a central aspect in CFSP. A clear example is the member states’ behavior in the Middle East Peace Process. In this case Solana managed to improve EU’s role in the region by contributing in the drafting of the Mitchell Report in 2001, an objective that would have been hard to achieve if the HR would not have existed9. At the same time, member states do not usually go beyond a mere exchange of information with the HR before taking any action. In this case the role played by the Presidencies is a central factor. Generally small states tend to interact more with the HR rather than big ones that prefer to take advantage of the six-month Presidency to raise their profile both at home and abroad. During presidencies member states sometimes take more into account national interests and positions that are in conflict with EU positions. During the 2003 Italian Presidency for instance, Gianfranco Fini, the Italian Deputy-Prime Minister, supported Israel’s construction of the wall in the West Bank even if the EU opposed it.10 The coherence problem brought, especially after 9/11, a strengthening of the role of national foreign policies, in particular those of big member states. The clear position of the United States in the intervention in Iraq was not shared by all member states and the US preferred to relate to European countries in a bilateral basis rather than to the EU as a whole through the High-Representative. This has given the perception to third states of the EU as a fragmented actor in foreign policy.11 5

S.Keukeleire & J.MacNaughtan, The Foreign Policy of the European Union, Houndmills, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, p.80. 6

Ibid., p.264.

7

Ibid., p.80.

8

P.Jonas, EU Foreign Policy After Lisbon: Will the New High Representative and the External Action Service Make a Difference?, Master Thesis, College of Europe, Bruges, Academic Year 2007-2008, p.9, unpublished. 9

A.Ambos & I. Won Behr, ‘The Middle East Peace Process, in Mahncke, Ambos & Reynolds (eds.), op.cit., p.304.

10

Ibid., p.306.

11

P.Van Ham, ‘The EU’s war over Iraq. The Last Wake-Up Call in ESDP’ in Mahncke, Ambos & Reynolds (eds.), op.cit., pp.216-217.

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Antonio Luzzi

CFSP High Representative Strengths and Weaknesses

Fragmentation also occurs in the relationship of the High-Representative with the Commission, even if good efforts from both sides of Rue de la Loi were shown in the past, the main innovations that will be introduced by the Lisbon Treaty aim at the overcoming of the separated pillar structures. After the introduction of the Amsterdam Treaty the natural antagonism that lies between the Commission and the Council was efficiently moderated by the personal relationship between Solana and Chris Patten that was designated by Romano Prodi (1999-2004) as the External Relations Commissioner. Patten’s role of primus inter pares among other Commissioners involved in external relations, helped to avoid parallelism between the Commission Structures and the Council Secretariat12. This important synergy between these actors brought to the proposal in the Constitutional Treaty of the ‘Union Minister for Foreign Affairs’ combining Solana and Patten’s role. During the Barroso Commission (2004-), the President decided he would chair the external policies Commissioners group until the Constitutional Treaty would enter into force and for the new Union Foreign Minister to take office.13 The French and Dutch ‘no’ to the Constitutional Treaty blocked this process that only resumed during the negotiations for the Lisbon Treaty.14 In matters of foreign policy the Treaty of Lisbon simplifies the mechanisms and strengthens the role of the High Representative. The new ‘High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy’ (HR/VP)15 will both chair the Foreign Affairs Council and be the Vice President of the Commission, limiting the actual problems of fragmentation and dualism. The HR/VP will not, however, have an easy task. Despite the substantial powers that the Lisbon Treaty (if ever ratified) will confer to the HR/VP, he will have to cope with a Commission President that will surely have a word in foreign policy and with a permanent President of the Council, with whom he will have to cooperate in preparing the agenda of the European Council and in ensuring coherent decisions in the event of a crisis. 16 In order to assist the uneasy task of the HR/VP the Lisbon Treaty introduces the European External Action Service (EEAS) a ‘functional interface between all the main institutional actors of European Foreign Policy’ 17. It is not quite clear how this new body will work, it will probably be a sui generis structure made up of officials coming from the Commission, the Council Secretariat and the member states’ diplomatic service. 18 As Missiroli defines it, the EEAS will be the HR/VP’s ‘walking stick and satellite navigator’ 19. A body that combines civil servants coming from different experiences will certainly be an important driver not only in external matters, but also in the internal institutional relations. 12

A.Missiroli, ‘A tale of two pillars – and an arch’, in Graham Avery & Antonio Missiroli (eds.), The EU Foreign Service: How to build a more effective common policy, EPC Working Paper no.28, Brussels, European Policy Centre, 2007, pp.11-12. 13

Ibid.

14

Ibid.

15

S.Kurpas, et. Al, The Treaty of Lisbon: implementing the Institutional Innovations, Brussels, CEPS, EGMONT & EPC, 2007, pp.129-130. 16

Missiroli, op.cit., p.19-20.

17

Kurpas, op.cit., p.133.

18

19

Ibid., p.134. Missiroli, op.cit., p.21.

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Antonio Luzzi

CFSP High Representative Strengths and Weaknesses

In conclusion, in the last ten years since the ratification of the Amsterdam Treaty, the EU High-Representative played a crucial role in Common Foreign and Security Policy. Even if the Treaty provisions did not define clearly the role and influence of the HR, member states appointed a relevant political figure such as Javier Solana to this post boosting the influence of this figure beyond the mere treaty provisions, leading to important international achievements. At the same time, member states limited Solana’s action in order to defend national interest and visibility. His positive interaction with the Commission was finally helpful to the development of the HighRepresentative, whose powers will be enhanced by the new Lisbon Treaty. The challenge that will come about with the Commission and the Council could probably be solved again in the choice of a strong high-political figure for this role.

Bibliography All treaty references made in this paper relate to the Treaty on European Union. Ambos, Alicia, ‘The institutionalization of CFSP and ESDP’ in Dieter Mahncke, Alicia Ambos & Christopher Reynolds (eds.), European Foreign Policy: From Rhetoric to Reality?, Brussels, Pieter Lang, 2004, pp. 165-192. 5


Antonio Luzzi

CFSP High Representative Strengths and Weaknesses

Ambos, Alicia & Von Behr, Ines, ‘The Middle East Peace Process’ in Dieter Mahncke, Alicia Ambos & Christopher Reynolds (eds.), European Foreign Policy: From Rhetoric to Reality?, Brussels, Pieter Lang, 2004, pp. 293-315. Francia, Roberto & Miguel Angel, Medina Abellàn, ‘Striving for a Common Foreign Policy. A Brief History, in Dieter Mahncke, Alicia Ambos & Christopher Reynolds (eds.), European Foreign Policy: From Rhetoric to Reality?, Brussels, Pieter Lang, 2004, pp. 117- 64. Howorth, Jolyon & Anne-Marie Le Gloannec, ‘The institutional logic behind the EEAS’, in Graham Avery & Antonio Missiroli (eds.), The EU Foreign Service: How to build a more effective common policy, EPC Working Paper no. 28, Brussels, European Policy Centre, 2007, pp. 28- 34. Jonas, Paul, EU Foreign Policy After Lisbon: Will the New High Representative and the External Action Service Make a Difference?, Master Thesis, College of Europe, Bruges, Academic Year 2007-2008, unpublished. Keukeleire, Stephan &Jennifer, MacNaughtan, The Foreign Policy of the European Union, Houndmills, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. Kurpas, Sebastian et. Al, The Treaty of Lisbon: implementing the Institutional Innovations, Brussels, CEPS, EGMONT & EPC, 2007. Missiroli, Antonio, ‘A tale of two pillars – and an arch’, in Graham Avery & Antonio Missiroli (eds.), The EU Foreign Service: How to build a more effective common policy, EPC Working Paper no. 28, Brussels, European Policy Centre, 2007, pp. 9-27. Van Ham, Peter, ‘The EU’s war over Iraq. The Last Wake-Up Call in ESDP’ in Dieter Mahncke, Alicia Ambos & Christopher Reynolds (eds.), European Foreign Policy: From Rhetoric to Reality?, Brussels, Pieter Lang, 2004, pp. 209-226. Wessels, Wolfgang, ‘Theoretical Perspectives: CFSP beyond the Supranational and Intergovernmental Dichotomy’ ESDP’ in Dieter Mahncke, Alicia Ambos & Christopher Reynolds (eds.), European Foreign Policy: From Rhetoric to Reality?, Brussels, Pieter Lang, 2004, pp. 6196.

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The European Union's High Representative