The Union and the World
Kluwer Law International
By Alan Cafruny
June 20, 1998
During the series of stormy transatlantic negotiations in 1973, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger expressed his frustration with the European Community by asking "Who speaks for Europe?". In the ensuing 25 years ago, the European Union has clearly taken giant strides in the domain of a common foreign policy. While the institutional framework of the EU's common foreign policy is as confusing and as spread out over different institutions as it was in the 1970s, decision-making procedures have been streamlined, treaties have been implemented, and as a Union has been proclaimed. Moreover, Europe's global stature has certainly increased during the past quarter century. A greatly enlarged Union now frequently now frequently speaks with one voice on a range of important economic and political issues. Although intergovernmental conferences such as Maastricht (1991) and Amsterdam (1997) continue to display and, at times, accentuate national rivalries, the scope of their policies and their impact on world affairs have increased dramatically. Nevertheless, despite these advances the much discussed "Monsieur PESC", a French initiative designed to eliminate uncertainty about who or which institution of the EU is responsible for foreign policy, has not elicited general support. The President of the Commission continues to struggle for recognition as the Union's spokesperson, while the Parliament, despite having benefited greatly from the Maastricht Treaty, presses to extend its leverage both in foreign policy and in overall decision-making procedures of the Union. In short, Kissinger's question still lacks a satisfactory answer: it is still not clear just whom he should call if he wants to speak with Europe.
The theoretical literature in European Studies has not been notably more successful than Henry Kissinger in seeking to comprehend the complexities and ambiguities of the Union. Analyses of the Union's foreign policy with reference to the two dominant paradigms, realism and neo-functionalism, run the risk of intellectual rigidity and simplification. While realists continue to portray the nation state as the dominant unitary actor, and assert that the Union's foreign policy can be understood as a more or less straightforward bargain between the most powerful member states, neo-functionalists assume a tendency towards policy coordination and an erosion of individual state capacity. Yet the chapters in this volume indicate that functionalist and intergovernmental processes occur simultaneously and, indeed, tend to be mutually reinforcing: even as states remain formidable actors, the Union's own institutions also constitute an important explanatory variable in the conduct of foreign policy. In the idiomatic language of the contemporary international political economy, the European Union is more than a regime, but less than a federation. Hence, the central question animating this volume is the extent to which the European Union has become an actor in its own right on the world stage. How is the Union's foreign policy made? In what areas does the Union have a strong claim to primacy? In what areas do the member states continue to hold sway? And finally, what lies ahead for the Union's foreign policy?
If the complexities of the Union make hazardous to render a satisfactory theoretical account of foreign policy, it is at lest somewhat easier to describe the formal, institutional matrix of foreign policy. If Kissenger's successors want to speak want to speak with the Union, they usually start with the Commission, but quickly realize that they cannot ignore the Council of Ministers, the institution that embodies state sovereignty and national interest. The Commission is endowed with formal competency is some key areas, especially trade, but even here the Council informally plays a strong role in developments. The Council is an institution that is difficult to understand, with a hybrid and changing membership that does not formally initiate policy, and indeed seldom makes any decision. Most agreements reflect a compromise reached by anonymous bureaucrats and diplomats in committees of permanent representatives. The agenda is often set by the Commission, in consultation with the Parliament and increasingly, under the watchful eye of the Court.
Hence, the Commission proposes, the Parliament mingles, the member states veto, the court judges, but eventually policy is legislated and executed. More importantly, much of this policy has external dimension. A communitarian foreign policy is one that is either initiated or managed predominantly by the Union's institutions rather than the member states. For analytical purposes, it is important to distinguish between two types of communitarian foreign policy. One type is decisional in the sense that it results from a conscious decision-making process and is enshrined in treaty law or directive. In this type of policy the external impact is intentional. Examples include the EU Dollar banana ruling (see Chapter 2 and 11), custom agreements with third states (see Chapters 3, 5, 8), and the ACP/Lome Treaties (see Chapters 1 and 8). Such policies might arise primarily within the Union, or as a reaction to the external policies. Examples of the latter include the EU opinion on the Helms-Burton Act (see Chapters 2 and 11), the fisheries dispute with Canada, and the EU's policy towards the war in former Yugoslovia (Chapter 7). A second type of policy is structural; the external impact of the Union's actions does not arise from law or directive, but results more or less indirectly from "domestic" political and economic processes. Examples of this type of policy include the Common Agricultural Policy (Chapter 14) the liberalization of the internal market (Chapter 11), asylum policy (Chapter 6) and anti-trust legislation. In practice, of course, the two types of policy are often overlapping. For example, the establishment of EMU is both a reaction to external monetary factors and a result of domestic developments; it is enshrined in legislation and directive, but will also greatly influence the international monetary regime.
Although many important areas of foreign policy have been brought under the purview of the Union's supranational institutions, it is important to recognize that the Union itself is the result of series of treaties, and not a constitutional convention as such - even if, arguably, an embryonic constitutional process has been launched. Although the treaty of Rome and subsequent documents such as the Single European Act certainly set in motion a process of integration, by definition these treaties also enshrine and, indeed, buttress national sovereignty. The treaties underline the point that Europe's constitutional process is highly ambiguous, and follows a very different route from that of the federalist United States of America.
The Union makes foreign policy on the basis of articles 113, 228, 235, of the Treaty on European Union. Article 113 authorizes the Commission to make commercial policy for the Union; Article 228 allows active or reactive economic policy in foreign affairs, e.g. boycotts and embargoes. Article 235 is a safeguard article, under which the institutions can initiate not forseen in treaties. As a result of the Maastricht Treaty, a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) has been proclaimed, yet the practical results of this policy has been a disappointment because the member states have been unable to agree on the scope of the policy, and the retention of a de facto veto makes the decision-making process both cumbersome and conflictual.
Prior to the Maastricht Treaty on European Union (1991), the key area of Union foreign policy were trade and agriculture. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), deemed necessary in the 1950s and 1960 but gradually having become more controversial, is an early example of how the common policy of the EU has influenced the international political economy of food (see Chapter 14). The common position of the union is trade issues, especially GATT/WTO, is another prime example of the political involvement of the Union on the world stage. Surprisingly, this is generally considered one of the more successful examples of a common foreign policy, managed primarily by one of the core institutions, the Commission, albeit under the careful eyes of the Council. Can the Union expand the range of policies within the communitarian first pillar? The Union has now developed a common bargaining position mainly in areas of trade, commerce and economic cooperation, while it lacks a convincing stand in sensitive political and security issues such as defence cooperation, peacekeeping and diplomatic relations, which penetrate into the core of national sovereignty. In sum, in economic affairs the Union generally speaks loudly and with one voice. In political affairs, sotto voce Union still struggles to be heard over the din of member states.
The case studies presented in this volume are designed to help students of European studies and international relations to understand the growing role of the EU in world affairs. Part I describes the evolution and contemporary functions of the key foreign policy actors - the Commission, the Court and the WEU - and considers the role of EU foreign policy within Europe's changing constitutional order. Part II discusses the Union's policy with respect to the most important issues of contemporary European international affairs: enlargement of the East, the war in former Yugoslavia, refugees and citizenship, and the Maghreb. Part III shifts the focus to economic and monetary issues, where the Union hopes to establish a single currency zone by 1999. In Part IV, the impact of the communitarian foreign policy with reference to several key industries and sectors is discussed.