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The policies of the Union

Defence policy

Measures of general application
Cooperation between certain Member States
Financing of defence policy
Summary table


The common security and defence policy will remain an integral part of the European Union's common foreign and security policy (CFSP). It will include the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy. Its purpose is to lead to a common defence, when the European Council , acting unanimously, so decides (Article I-40).

When doing their work, members of the Convention took account of the substantial differences between Member States' capabilities and the ways they envisage security and defence. The draft constitution therefore contains provisions based on flexible arrangements that are acceptable to all Member States and take account of their different approaches and political commitments.

In addition, any decisions on defence policy must still be adopted unanimously.

However, the defence provisions in the Treaty on European Union (EU Treaty) have been substantially strengthened, in part by provisions of general application concerning all Member States and in part by provisions allowing a group of States to advance more rapidly than others on certain security and defence matters.

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The new generally-applicable provisions comprise the updating of the Petersberg tasks and the insertion of a solidarity clause.

On the one hand, the draft constitutional treaty updates the Petersberg tasks referred to in Article 17(2) of the EU Treaty, to which other missions have been added such as joint disarmament operations, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and post-conflict stabilisation. The draft constitution also states that all these tasks may contribute to the fight against terrorism (Article III-210).

On the other hand, Article I-42 of the constitution introduces a solidarity clause whereby the other Member States will provide assistance if a Member State is the victim of terrorist attack or natural or man-made disaster. In this case, the Union will mobilise all the instruments at its disposal, including the military resources made available by the Member States, in order to assist the Member State concerned. This is in addition to the new provision on civil protection (Article III-184).

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Under Article III-211 of the draft constitution, the Council of Ministers may entrust the implementation of a task to a group of Member States having the necessary capability and the desire to undertake the task. These Member States, in association with the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs , will agree among themselves on the management of the task.

In addition, in order to improve and rationalise Member States' military capabilities, the constitution provides for the establishment of a European Armaments, Research and Military Capabilities Agency, which will be subject to the authority of the Council of Ministers. The Agency will be open to all Member States wishing to be a part of it (Article III-212). The statute, seat and operational rules of the Agency will be laid down in a European decision adopted by qualified majority .

Although strictly prohibited in the EU Treaty, the possibility of using enhanced cooperation in the field of security and defence is provided for in Article III-213 of the constitution. Thus, the article provides for the establishment of structured cooperation between Member States under a protocol that is to be annexed to the constitution. This undoubtedly constitutes a major advance compared with the current provisions in the EU Treaty on the CFSP. This structured cooperation will be subject to the approval of all the Union's Member States. It will also be subject to the general rules governing the enhanced cooperation provided for in the constitution.

Finally, Articles I-40(7) and III-214 of the constitution provide for closer cooperation on mutual defence. A list of the participating Member States will be set out in a declaration annexed to the constitution. Under these arrangements, where one of the participating States is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other participating States will give it aid and assistance by all the means in their power, military or other. This form of cooperation will be carried out in close cooperation with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).

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The draft constitution maintains the prohibition on charging to the Union budget expenditure arising from operations having military or defence implications. This expenditure will continue to be charged to the Member States in accordance with the gross national product scale. However, the draft constitution provides for the adoption of a European decision guaranteeing rapid access to appropriations for the urgent financing of preparatory activities for the Petersberg tasks.

In addition, a start-up fund made up of Member States' contributions is to be established to finance preparatory activities for Petersberg tasks which are not charged to the Union budget. The procedures for operating this fund will be laid down by the Council of Ministers acting by qualified majority (Article III-215).

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Articles Subject Comments
I-15 The common foreign and security policy -
I-27 Appointment, role and responsibility of the Minister for Foreign Affairs New provisions
I-39 Specific provisions for implementing common foreign and security policy -
I-40 Specific provisions for implementing the common security and defence policy Significant changes
I-42 Solidarity clause New provisions
I-43 Enhanced cooperation (general provisions) -
III-210 Petersberg tasks -
III-211 Implementation of a task by a group of Member States New provisions
III-212 European Armaments, Research and Military Capabilities Agency New provisions
III-213 Structured cooperation New provisions
III-214 Closer cooperation on mutual defence New provisions
III-215 Financial provisions -

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The fact sheets are not legally binding on the European Commission. They do not claim to be exhaustive and do not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Convention.

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