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EU policies

Common foreign and security policy (CFSP)

The decision-making process
Enhanced cooperation
CFSP instruments
CFSP funding
The role of the Court of Justice
Summary table


Article I-11, paragraph 4, of the draft Constitution gives the European Union (EU) competence to define and implement a common foreign and security policy (CFSP), including the progressive framing of a common defence policy . This policy is based on "the development of mutual political solidarity among Member States, the identification of questions of general interest and the achievement of an ever-increasing degree of convergence of Member States' actions".

One of the principal amendments made by the draft Constitutional Treaty to the provisions of the Treaty on European Union (EU Treaty) is the institution of a Union Minister for Foreign Affairs , who will contribute to the development and implementation of the CFSP. He/she will take on the external representation role currently carried out by the Presidency and will coordinate Member States' action within international organisations.

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According to the draft Constitution, the Commission will no longer be able to make proposals concerning the CFSP. It may, however, support an initiative of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

No real progress has been made in terms of decision-making, with the Council of Ministers continuing to decide by unanimity in most cases. Member States will continue to have the right of veto.

As in the EU Treaty, qualified majority voting is provided for in only a few specific cases, but the Constitution has added a new case. The Council of Ministers may act by qualified majority on a proposal put to it by the Minister for Foreign Affairs following a specific request from the European Council (Article III-201).

The draft Constitution also provides for use of the "switchover" to qualified majority voting. The European Council may thus decide unanimously that the Council of Ministers shall act by a qualified majority in cases where this is not provided by the Constitution.

Where majority voting applies, any Member State may declare its intention to oppose the adoption of a decision. However, from now on it must cite 'vital' rather than merely 'important' reasons of national policy, as is currently the case under the EU Treaty. The Minister for Foreign Affairs will then act as mediator in order to arrive at an acceptable solution before referring the matter to the European Council, which will decide by unanimity.

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In substance, the Constitution's provisions in relation to enhanced cooperation are equivalent to the current provisions of the EU Treaty. The only significant change is the amendment of the minimum number of participating Member States, which is changed from the current eight to one-third of Member States.

Enhanced cooperation may also be established in any area of the common foreign and security policy and no longer only for the implementation of a joint action or a common position, as provided for in Article 27b of the EU Treaty. In addition, "structured cooperation" may be established in the area of defence . This is a significant departure from the EU Treaty, where it was expressly prohibited.

It should also be noted that, according to Article III-328 of the draft Constitution, in the context of enhanced cooperation, participating Member States may decide to act by qualified majority, even if, in principle, unanimity is required. This could lead to the creation of a hard core of countries in relation to the CFSP.

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Compared with the EU Treaty, the draft Constitutional Treaty has limited the CFSP instruments, restricting them to European decisions and international agreements. The Council of Ministers may therefore adopt European decisions on:

The use of legislative instruments such as European laws and framework laws is excluded.

Moreover, despite the very poor take-up of common strategies under the EU Treaty, they have been included in the Constitution in the form of general guidelines adopted by the European Council (Article III-196).

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CFSP expenditure will still be charged to the general budget of the European Union, with the exception of expenditure arising from operations having military or defence implications. In addition, the draft Constitution provides for the adoption of a European decision guaranteeing rapid access to budget appropriations for urgent financing of initiatives in the framework of the common foreign and security policy, and in particular for preparatory activities for the Petersberg tasks (humanitarian tasks and rescue of nationals, peace-keeping tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking, etc.).

A start-up fund consisting of contributions from the Member States is also created to fund preparatory activities for the Petersberg tasks, which are not covered by the general budget of the EU (Article III-215).

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The Court of Justice does not have jurisdiction over the CFSP. However, it does have jurisdiction to rule on proceedings reviewing the legality of restrictive measures adopted by the Council of Ministers against natural or legal persons.

The Court of Justice also has jurisdiction to rule on whether an international agreement is compatible with the provisions of the Constitution, including in the area of the CFSP.

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Articles Subject Comments
Article I-11, paragraph 4 Principle of EU competence in the area of the CFSP -
Article I-15 Competences in the area of the CFSP -
Article I-27 Appointment, role and responsibilities of the Minister for Foreign Affairs New provisions
Article I-39 Specific provisions for implementing the common foreign and security policy -
Article I-40 Specific provisions for implementing the common security and defence policy -
Article I-43 Enhanced cooperation -
Articles III-195 to III-215 (Chapter II of Title V) Provisions related to the CFSP -

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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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