Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, Part 3

(This is part 3 of a piece on the European Union's foreign policy, how it works, and what it is capable of. Part 1 and 2 are here.)

The EU’s Decision Making Process

The Council of the European Union is the primary decision making body within the European Union, and is the most powerful legislative chamber within the organization.[1] The Treaty of Maastricht established a three pillar system within the European community, each pillar representing a separate aspect of European Union policy. The pillars include “Community,” which has to do with social and economic matters, the “Common Foreign and Security Policy” concerns military matters, and “Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters” which focuses on crime and legal justice policy.[2] As for the Council’s voting technique for deciding legislation, it uses three separate methods within the decision making process:

1. Unanimity, as in consensus within the Council on an issue. This used to be the normal decision making method, but after the SEA, situations using this method have “greatly reduced the circumstances in which a unanimity requirement applies and it is now largely confined to policy direction decisions” dealing with financial decisions.[3]

2. Simple Majority Voting, or when all states cast a single vote, and is generally used in procedural areas, specifically with antidumping and anti-subsidy tariffs, and requires a majority of members to vote in favor of a specific item.[4]

3. Qualified Majority Voting (or QMV), is used to some degree with all three pillars of the EU, specifically in social and research policy and will be used in new treaty articles combating fraud, transparency, statistics and data protection.[5] QMV will also be used on foreign policy matters. This weighted voting method was designed to make the European system as fair as possible for all the states involved with the Union, while still giving larger nations representation comparable to their size. QMV is generally based on the population size of each nation, yet is adjusted to favor smaller countries which have significantly smaller populations than the larger states in the Union (like Luxemburg and Belgium).[6] This system of voting is at the heart of the European integration process, and is a clear example of how complex the organization is required to be to make its members content and have their concerns adequately reflected in the association. Neill Nugent writes, “The European Union Treaty stipulates that unanimity in the EU Council is needed to entrust policy-making powers to the EU in a certain number of key areas. In other areas, QMV is sufficient.”[7] Exactly what aspects of the European Union will be decided by this weighted voting method is passionately debated, as are the number of votes a specific nation will be given at the Council, and what percentage of votes must be cast for a proposal to pass. As demonstrated during the Amsterdam summit in 1997, separate political parties hoped to keep QMV from being used on issues of state control.[8] At Amsterdam, an agreement was made that a reweighting of votes and what could be voted on using QMV would occur with the following treaty, the Treaty of Nice in 2001.

As of 2005, with the enlargement of the EU to 27 member states, The Treaty of Nice stipulates that a qualified majority consists of at least fifteen member states, at least 55 percent of the member states, and at least 62 percent of the total EU to vote in favor of an issue presented to the Council.[9] This means 255 out of the 345 Council votes will be required to pass legislation (or roughly, 74% of the Council).

Why Qualified Majority Voting?

Since the organization’s inception, one of the most pressing issues the EU has faced is how to create an international cooperative organization that looks to advance the issues important to all European states, and not just the larger nations at the expense of its smaller members. While unanimity may have been feasible in the early days of the EU when it was small and limited in scope, the old voting system would likely lead to extensive gridlock in today’s expansive and diverse Europe, and so the QMV method has been adopted to deal with larger portions of the Council’s decision making. This system walks the line between the single majority and unanimity voting systems, as it allows a majority to pass legislation, while adjusting the voting power of each nation to reflect both their populations, and positions within the Union as a whole. So, for example, a nation like Germany with a population of 82 million will have 29 votes in the Council. Ireland, with 4.2 million members, has 7 votes according to the Treaty of Nice. France has 29 votes with 62 million citizens, and Luxemburg has 4 votes and has 0.46 million citizens. So for every 2,827,586 German citizens represented by a single Council vote, 600,000 Irish citizens are represented by a single vote, representing how this “weighted” system is applied.

Helen and William Wallace argue that QMV “makes doubting governments focus on seeking amendments to meet their concerns, rather than on blocking progress altogether. Under unanimity rules governments are generally much more likely to delay or obstruct agreements, or to exercise blocking power until their views are accommodative.”[10] This is clearly the logic behind QMV voting; seeing that deadlock could cripple the organization, it forces nations to look towards compromise rather than outright veto by building coalitions that can offset dominate positions. This discrepancy in representation has upset members of larger EU nations however. Desmond Dinan writes, “The allocation of votes and the threshold for a qualified majority (around the 72 percent of the total number of Council votes) have always been contentious issues among the member states and have increasingly divided the big from the small countries.”[11]

The system was specifically built so that no large nation could force their will on the smaller ones, and is set up in a way that makes hegemony nearly impossible within the EU system. The QMV establishes a system where a 2/3 vote is required on most issues, and that the countries supporting the proposal represent at least that percentage of the total EU population.[12] This structure places a high degree of importance on consensus, as a large chunk of the Union must vote in favor of an issue to have it pass, and that that bloc must represent a sizable actual proportion of the union as well. From the Treaty of Maastricht and Amsterdam, to Nice and now Lisbon, the EU has had to deal with an increasing number of members, and the balancing act necessary to keep the QMV fair and acceptable to all members.

1. Wallace, Helen and William. “Policy-Making in the European Union” 5th Edition. Oxford University Press, 2005. pg. 56
2. Nugent, Neill. “The Government and Politics of the European Union”, 5th Edition. Duke University Press, 2003. pg.66
3. Nugent, Neill. pg. 168
4. Nugent, Neill. Pg.169
5.Wallace, Helen and William. pg. 61
6. Nugent, Neill. Pg. 169
7. Alesina, Alberto. “Institutional Rules for Federations.” Harvard Institute of Economic Research, 2001.
8. Helm, Toby. “A Few Small Steps but no Giant Leap for Federalists.” The Telegraph, June 19th, 1997.
9. Dinan, Desmond. Dinan, Desmond. “Ever Closer Union.” Third Edition. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005. Pg. 256
10. Wallace, Helen and William. Pg. 61.
11. Dinan, Desmond. Pg. 254
12. Dinan, Desmond. pg. 254

The Japanese Imperial Palace

A few pictures from my recent trip to Japan. This is as close as I could get to the royal family, as I did not apply in advance to go any further onto the property.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, Part 2

(This is part 2 of a piece on the European Union's foreign policy, how it works, and what it is capable of. Part 1 is here.)

Origins of EU Cooperation – Lessons in Building a Supranational Organization

The founding members of the EU (France, Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries) were all countries that had suffered significantly from the Second World War. They did not necessarily work towards the EU out of a deep commitment to ideological tenets of integration, but out of personal self interest: all of the founding members believed they would gain more than they surrendered by working within the Union’s framework.[5] They were willing to hand over aspects of their sovereignty to a central organization; with that trade off came economic and security benefits. The CFSP, like previous economic integration, has had to walk a fine line between being an effective organization that can take action when needed, and one that does not trample on the rights of the EU member states.

The Treaty of Paris in 1951 created the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The first step towards major economic integration in Europe, it incorporated the steel and coal communities of France and Germany to avoid war between the two countries in the future. Each subsequent treaty helped thicken and deepen integration, setting new standards for cooperation by taking down restrictions. By making the first step toward economic unity in Europe, the ECSC showed that transnational cooperation was a viable avenue to averting conflict in Europe.[6] Following the Treaties of Paris, the original EU members decided that an agreement had to be made that incorporated more than simply coal and steel into their community economy. This was done in the Treaties of Rome, which established the Treaty on the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community in 1957. This exemplified the first line of the Treaty of Rome read, “to lay the foundation of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.”[7]

In the 1980s and 1990s, under the auspice of the European Political Cooperation (EPC), European nation states increasingly began to cooperate with each other on a number of foreign policy actions. The organization became so pervasive in the European community that it was given its own section in the Single European Act (Title III), and stated that “the High Contrasting Partiers, being members of the European Communities, shall endeavor jointly to formulate and implement a European foreign policy.”[8] Title III was not incorporated into the treaties however, and as Neill Nugent argues, this generally had to due with the unwillingness of the European member states to relinquish control over foreign policy matters to the procedures required in the EU to pass legislation.[9] The EPC’s configuration was loose, so that no state could prevent another from taking action independent of the organization, if the organization failed to unanimously come to a decision.

It wasn’t until the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 that the CFSP took substantial shape, following the decades of increased incorporation on the continent through previously mentioned political and economic institutions.[10] The Maastricht Treaty established nine areas of common interest that were subject to intergovernmental cooperation, and represent the broad implications of an open border policy. These areas included those seeking asylum and immigration, as well as fighting drugs and fraud, and the judicial procedures each state should follow when cooperating on civil and criminal matters.[11] The Treaty also established a coordinating committee “of senior member state officials to work on justice and home affairs issues and prepare Council meetings.” This increased the speed and efficiency the EU was able to move this aspect of the project forward.[12]

Most importantly however, the CFSP was placed firmly in the control of the EU organization, and fully integrated into its decision making process, making it officially part of the Second Pillar within the organization.[13] Whereas in the past, where foreign affairs matters were delegated out to individual states, with the 1990s and the conflicts and crises following the collapse of Communism in the east, presented problems in Europe’s immediate vicinity. This forced the EU countries to increase the role of collective foreign policy decisions. In 1999 they strengthened the existing CFSP devices with the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), enabling the EU to also undertake conflict resolution and peacekeeping processes using military emergency management instruments.[14]

Following these important steps, came the Schengen Agreement through the Treaty of Amsterdam. This agreement removed border controls between EU nations, and placed many of the concerns outlined in the Maastricht treaty in the hands of the first pillar within the European Union.[15] Furthermore, the Amsterdam treaty established the office of the High Representative for the CFSP, which is currently held by Javier Solana. The European People’s Party and European Democrats (EPP-ED) find the creation of the High Representative as a positive step towards the realization of the European Union’s initial goal to unite and represent the continent. They write, “The Treaty of Amsterdam … set out an institutional basis for the structures needed to launch a common foreign and security policy. Its objectives are to safeguard the principles of independence and the common values of the European Union, as well as to maintain peace and international security.”[16]

At the Cologne European Council in June 1999, EU leaders agreed that "the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed by credible military forces…without NATO.”[17] At the European Council in Helsinki in December 1999, the Helsinki Headline Goal was created, setting a number of important goals for the EU’s foreign policy: “co-operating voluntarily in EU-led operations, Member States must be able, by 2003, to deploy within 60 days and sustain for at least 1 year military forces of, the Union will be able to carry out the full range of the tasks up to 50,000-60,000 persons capable of the full range of tasks stated in Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).”[18]

The CFSP was not simply to protect Europe from attacks, but to be a force for democratic change in Europe and elsewhere; making clear that the EU’s mission was broader than simple economic agreements, but was a vision for future political cooperation. The European Security Strategy argues, “European countries are committed to dealing peacefully with disputes and to co-operating through common institutions. Over this period, the progressive spread of the rule of law and democracy has seen authoritarian regimes change into secure, stable and dynamic democracies. Successive enlargements are making a reality of the vision of a united and peaceful continent.”[19]

5. Wallace, Helen. “Policy-Making in the European Union.” 5th edition. Oxford University Press, 2005. pg. 5
6. Wallace, Helen. “Policy-Making in the European Union.” 5th edition. Oxford University Press, 2005. pg.35
7. Oudenaren, John Van. “Uniting Europe”, 2nd ed. Bowman & Littlefield, New York, 2005
8. Nugent, Neil. “The Government and Politics of the European Union.” 5th Edition, Duke University Press, 2003. pg. 415
9. Nugent, Neill. “The Government and Politics of the European Union” 5th edition. Duke University Press, 2003.
10. “The European Union and the World.” The European Commission, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2001.
11. Dinan, Desmond. “Ever Closer Union.” Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005 3rd edition. Pg. 566
12. Nugent, Neil. “The Government and Politics of the European Union.” 5th Edition, Duke University Press, 2003. pg.61
13. Nugent, Neil. “The Government and Politics of the European Union.” 5th Edition, Duke University Press, 2003. pg. 67
14. “Common Foreign and Security Policy.” Federal Foreign Office, Auswartiges Amt.
15. Nugent, Neil. “The Government and Politics of the European Union.” 5th Edition, Duke University Press, 2003. Pg.310
16. “Progress within the framework of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP)”. The EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament, June 2004.
17.Council of the European Union. Military Capabilities, September 2008.
18. Council of the European Union. Military Capabilities, September 2008.
19. European Security Strategy: A Secure Europe in a Better World. Brussels, December 12 2003.

The Cat’s Out of the Bag

Counterpunch, a bi-weekly anti-Israel and all around crap fest, is offering a “Special Double Issue Edition of Our Subscriber-Only Newsletter!” where they interview Khaled Meshal, the international representative for Hamas. A known terrorist, and a man who praised Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for saying the Holocaust a myth and said Israel should be moved to Europe or North America. "Those were brave and true remarks and it is what the Islamic nations say, especially the Palestinians," he said.

At least some folks aren’t trying to even hide their true intentions anymore.

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

Over at Zombietime

Stay classy protesters.