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The Institutions of the Union


The Minister for Foreign Affairs


Introduction
Appointment procedure
Responsibilities
European External Action Service
Summary table

INTRODUCTION

Creating the post of Minister for Foreign Affairs was one of the main innovations of the draft Constitution. The purpose of introducing such a role was to make the European Union's external action more effective and coherent, the Minister for Foreign Affairs becoming in effect the voice of the Union's common foreign and security policy (CFSP).

This institutional innovation is the result of merging the functions of the High Representative for the CFSP and the External Relations Commissioner. Provision is made for the creation of the post of Foreign Affairs Minister in Article I-27 of the draft Constitutional Treaty. His or her role is to ensure that the European Union runs a coherent foreign policy using all the instruments at its disposal.

The Foreign Affairs Minister will not, however, have sole charge of the Union's external representation. Article I-21 of the draft Constitution provides that, as well as preparing and chairing the work of the European Councils, the President of the European Council is responsible at his or her level for ensuring the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy, without prejudice to the responsibilities of the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs. The draft Constitution does not, however, go into detail about how these functions are to be divided between the European Council President and the Foreign Affairs Minister, leaving their respective roles for institutional practice to decide.

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APPOINTMENT PROCEDURE

The Minister for Foreign Affairs is to be appointed by the European Council acting by qualified majority, with the agreement of the President of the Commission and after approval by the European Parliament . In this capacity, he or she is responsible for conducting the Union's common foreign and security policy. The European Council may end the Minister's tenure by the same procedure as that through which he or she was appointed.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs will also be one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission. In exercising responsibilities within the Commission and only in exercising those responsibilities, he or she is bound by Commission procedures.

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RESPONSIBILITIES

The Foreign Affairs Minister will -- as the Convention put it -- wear two hats, being both the Council's representative for the common foreign and security policy and one of the Commission's Vice-Presidents.

As such, the Foreign Affairs Minister will conduct the Union's common foreign and security policy and, for this purpose, will have a right of initiative in foreign policy matters and implement that policy under mandate from the Council of Ministers . The Minister will perform a similar role in the area of common security and defence policy . When acting under this mandate, he or she will be bound by the collegiate principle governing the Commission.

The draft Constitutional Treaty also provides that, as well as chairing the Foreign Affairs Council, the Foreign Affairs Minister will contribute by his or her proposals to the preparation of common foreign and security policy and ensure implementation of European decisions adopted by the European Council and the Council of Ministers. Together with the Council of Ministers, he or she is responsible for seeing that CFSP principles are complied with (Article III-195).

The Foreign Affairs Minister will represent the EU in matters concerning the common foreign and security policy, conduct political dialogue on the Union's behalf and express the Union's position in international organisations and at international conferences. He or she is also responsible for coordinating Member States' action in international forum (Article III-206). In this capacity, he or she may, where the Union has defined a position on a subject which is on the United Nations Security Council agenda, be called upon by the Member States sitting on the Security Council to present the Union's position (Article III-206).

In addition, the Union's special representatives (appointed and mandated by the Council of Ministers to deal with specific policy issues) carry out their mandate under the authority of the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs (Article III-203).

At the same time, the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs is one of the European Commission's Vice-Presidents, responsible within the Commission for external relations and coordinating other aspects of the Union's external action. The EU is responsible for maintaining consistency between the different areas of its external action and between these and its other policies, and the Council of Ministers and the Commission, assisted by the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs, must cooperate in ensuring that consistency (Article III-193).

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EUROPEAN EXTERNAL ACTION SERVICE

Finally, the Foreign Affairs Minister will be in charge of a diplomatic service with delegations in almost 125 countries. The draft Constitution provides for a European External Action Service to be set up to assist the Minister in his or her functions.

This joint service will be established by an agreement between the Council of Ministers and the Commission (without prejudice to the rights of the European Parliament) and placed under the authority of the Foreign Affairs Minister. It will be composed of officials from relevant departments of the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers and of the Commission and staff seconded from national diplomatic services.

The staff of the Union's delegations operating in third countries and within international organisations will be provided from this joint service.

According to the Declaration on the creation of a European External Action Service, the necessary arrangements for establishing this service should be made within the first year of entry into force of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe.

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SUMMARY TABLE

Articles Subject Comments
Article I-27 Appointment, role and responsibilities of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. New provisions
Article I-21/TD> Role of the European Council President/TD> New provisions
Articles III-193 to III-231 (Title V)/TD> The Union's external action/TD> Significant changes
Declaration on the creation of a European External Action Service - New 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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