Monday, January 12, 2009

The European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, Part 1

(I had a few conversations with some old comrades recently concerning the European Union and its Common Foreign and Security Policy (the EU CFSP). These conversations reminded me of a piece I wrote a few months back, regarding the history, objectives, and failings of the EU’s united foreign policy. I never posted it here, so over the next few days, I will post another piece of the article. This is part 1.)

The European Union (EU) is an international project of considerable proportions; it was born out of the national conflicts that had wrecked Europe for centuries, and has aimed to build an improved, more united Europe in its wake. It is an organization ingrained in the ideals dreamt by both the Rationalists of the 1600s, but also in the belief that the nation state and nationalism as a whole, had failed to make the world a safer place following the horrors of the previous centuries. From its inception at the end of the Second World War, the EU has worked to create a transnational entity capable of ending conflict on the European continent that had plagued the region since the creation of the nation state. Member states in the EU have handed over large portions of their individual sovereignty on policy maters, as each inch of growth in the integration process was built slowly from its early origins in the Coal and Steel Community to the current Common Foreign and Security Policy objectives the EU is working towards presently. Understanding how the EU has developed as a cooperative organization from its foundation to its current shape is essential in grasping how the EU’s collective foreign policy operates, and the limitations to it.

After World War Two, political leaders on both the left and right within Europe and the Americas believed it necessary to unify the continent, both to avoid future wars between western powers, and to offset growing centers of power elsewhere. This was a position accepted across ideological lines in Europe; Desmond Dinan writes “politicians of all persuasions espoused the cause of economic and political integration.”[1] Socialists and conservatives embraced the idea that a newer Europe had to be built from the ashes of the previous 50 years. These Europeans were not alone; The United States hoped to increase cooperation between European powers so that it would not be drawn into another war in the region, as did Britain under Churchill, who was a strong supporter of collaboration on the European mainland.[2]

Today, the European Union is made up of 27 individual states, and its single economic zone generates 30% of the world’s GDP. As the European Security Strategy unmistakably states, “As a union of 25 states with over 450 million people producing a quarter of the world’s Gross National Product (GNP), and with a wide range of instruments at its disposal, the European Union is inevitably a global player. In the last decade European forces have been deployed abroad to places as distant as Afghanistan, East Timor and the DRC. The increasing convergence of European interests and the strengthening of mutual solidarity of the EU makes us a more credible and effective actor. Europe should be ready to share in the responsibility for global security and in building a better world.”[3]

What began as a trade agreement between a few select nations has grown to be an all encompassing organization that is concerned with economic, social, political, and military affairs of the European continent and the world at large. The suprnational aims desired by EU architect Jean Monnet were not achieved overnight, and have yet to reach their desired end. One of the historical roadblocks in increasing the integration between European member states has been what role the EU will play in the defense and military stance of the continent. At present, the EU has an organized and agreed foreign policy called the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), but this aspect of the European Union leaves much to be desired when placed next to extensive integrationist aspects fostered through economic programs like the Single European Act (SEA).[4] This piece will examine the roots of the CFSP, its current position within the EU and Europe as a whole, as well as its success failures and alternatives to it.

1 Dinan, Desmond. “Ever Closer Union.” Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005 3rd edition. Pg. 14
2 Dinan, Desmond. “Ever Closer Union.” Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005 3rd edition. Pg. 19
3 European Security Strategy: A Secure Europe in a Better World. Brussels, December 12 2003.
4 Wallace, Helen. “Policy-Making in the European Union.” 5th edition. Oxford University Press, 2005. pg. 417

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