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Common Foreign and Security Policy

INTRODUCTION

The Treaty of Lisbon seeks to strengthen the role of the European Union (EU) at international level. The reforms introduced by the Treaty aim to make the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the EU more coherent and to increase its visibility.

To this end, the Treaty of Lisbon introduces two major innovations:

Alongside these two innovations, the Treaty of Lisbon also introduces other less important changes, specifically concerning the procedures for implementing the CFSP.

THE ABOLITION OF THE 2ND PILLAR OF THE EU

The CFSP previously formed the 2nd pillar of the old EU structure. It was governed by intergovernmental cooperation, within which decisions were principally taken unanimously by the Council or the European Council.

The Treaty of Lisbon reforms the old EU structure by abolishing the distinction between the three pillars (page “division of competences”). However, this merging of the pillars does not affect the decision-making procedures for CFSP matters. The main roles of the European Council and the Council of the EU are maintained, as is the principle of unanimity.

Furthermore, the merging of the pillars effectively makes the European Community disappear, to be replaced by the EU. The EU shall thereby have legal personality, which was previously an attribute of the European Community only. This legal personality confers on the EU new rights at international level. For example, the EU is henceforth capable of concluding international agreements and joining international organisations and conventions.

INSTRUMENTS OF THE CFSP

The Treaty of Lisbon modifies the types of act adopted in the field of the CFSP. The previous instruments such as common strategies, common positions and common actions are replaced. Henceforth, the European Council and the Council of the EU shall only adopt decisions on:

  • the strategic interests and objectives of the Union;
  • the actions to be undertaken by the Union;
  • the positions to be taken by the Union;
  • the procedures for implementing the actions and positions of the Union.

No legislative act can be adopted in the field of the CFSP.

THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS

The Treaty of Lisbon does not make any major changes to the decision-making process in the field of the CFSP. The European Council is the institution responsible for defining the general guidelines and strategies of the EU. On this basis, the Council of the EU is then responsible for developing and putting in place the implementing measures.

On matters relating to the CFSP, Member States and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have a right of initiative. The High Representative exercises this right with the support of the Commission. In addition, the High Representative must regularly inform and consult the European Parliament on the implementation of the CFSP. In particular, the High Representative must ensure that the views of the European Parliament are duly taken into consideration.

Unanimity remains the general rule for decisions adopted by the Council and the European Council concerning the CFSP. However, the Treaty of Lisbon introduces a specific bridging clause use applicable to the whole of the CFSP. Exceptions are made for decisions with military implications or those in the area of defence. Using the bridging clause, the European Council may authorise the Council to act by a qualified majority to adopt certain measures.

Article 31 of the Treaty on EU provides for four additional exceptions where the Council acts by qualified majority.

THE ROLE OF THE COURT OF JUSTICE

The Treaty of Lisbon maintains the principle of the lack of jurisdiction of the Court of Justice in the field of the CFSP (Article 24 of the Treaty on the EU). However, it provides for two exceptions where the Court of Justice may exercise judicial control:

  • reviewing the legality of restrictive measures taken by the Union against natural or legal persons (Article 275 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU);
  • monitoring compliance with Article 40 of the Treaty on EU and monitoring respect of the powers of European institutions when implementing the CFSP.

Furthermore, Article 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU provides that an opinion of the Court of Justice may be obtained as to whether an international agreement is compatible with the founding Treaties of the EU.

FINANCING THE CFSP

The Treaty of Lisbon does not make any changes to the financing of expenditure connected to the CFSP: expenditure with military implications or in the area of defence is financed by Member States; all other expenditure is financed by the EU budget.

The Treaty of Lisbon introduces two new mechanisms to ensure rapid finance for the most urgent actions:

  • urgent actions which depend on the Union budget shall benefit from procedures for rapid finance. The Council shall establish the arrangements for this finance;
  • urgent actions which depend on financing from Member States shall benefit from a start-up fund, financed by contributions from Member States.
Last updated: 26.04.2010
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