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1.5.2.  The absence of a common foreign policy

    Α paradoxical effect of the information deficit and the absence of civic education on European integration is that, while citizens seem to be indifferent to the European Union, they simultaneously expect ever more important results from it. This is notably the case concerning the European presence on the world stage, the second serious flaw of the European edifice. Eurobarometer surveys indicate constantly over a long period of years that two out of three Europeans believe that the European Union should have an effective common foreign policy [see introduction to chapter 10]. Three out of four citizens of the Union back a really common security and defence policy. These and many more specific findings of the opinion polls indicate that Europeans fail to understand how the economic giant that they have created, the most important power in international trade, now endowed with the strongest currency in the world, cannot make its voice heard in the world arena. They expect the Union to take the lead in monitoring regional conflicts, globalisation, environmental challenges and famines in the world. The tragic inability of the Union to prevent the Balkan wars at its doorstep or to enforce the rules of international law in the resolution of conflicts in the Middle East has greatly reduced the respect of Europeans for their common institutions. Public reasoning is quite simple: as long as the Union cannot act as a mature political giant, it cannot be respected. It is time for the infant giant to grow up.

    The citizens' expectations for a powerful Union in the world include the dissemination and defence of the European ideals of peace, welfare, democracy, the rule of law and social justice on the world stage. Europe is open to the world and its citizens understand that they cannot live merrily in a prosperous island surrounded by the misery and envy of other nations. They understand that, for their own peace and security, the Union should contribute more to peace and sustainable development in the world. Europeans know as well that they cannot prevent the new technologies and free enterprise from shrinking the world to the virtual dimensions of a village; but they feel that this, as any village, should have a town hall and that they should have their representatives inside it. In other words, they expect the Union to play an active role in the globalisation phenomenon by enhancing the legitimacy and effectiveness of international institutions, notably the United Nations Organisation and its specialised agencies, so that these may impose the law in the fields of peace, durable development, social progress, commerce and competition.

    There is no doubt that the vast majority of European citizens want their integration to step up to the stage of political union, including a strong and independent foreign policy and an even stronger and more independent security and defence policy. Why do citizens understand that in an era of integration, globalisation and world predominance of a superpower, national sovereignty in matters of foreign policy and security has no real meaning, while their political leaders do not understand it? Because, for the later, national sovereignty is closely related to their own power, which they do not want to share with their partners, even though this power, in the present geopolitical environment, is waning all the time and only unity can bolster it.

    One might suppose that the common foreign and security policy could develop as other common policies have developed in the past. There is, however, a fundamental difference between the common foreign and security policy and the common policies of the Community. Whereas the latter are governed by the Community method of decision-making, the CFSP depends on intergovernmental cooperation. This means that unanimity is required to make decisions in these fields, that the European Parliament does not participate in the decision-making process, that the Commission is not called to execute the decisions taken by the Council and that the Court of Justice is not competent to settle disputes and enforce the implementation of the decisions taken. Thanks to the intergovernmental method of the CFSP, any Member State may block a common position or common action on an important matter, thus frustrating the will of all the others. Moreover, any Member State may eventually disengage itself from a decision taken, thus thwarting a common action agreed upon. Obviously, the foreign and security policy cannot become "common" as long as it depends on intergovernmental cooperation.

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    Your roadmap in the maze of the European Union.

    Based on the book of Nicholas Moussis:
    Access to European Union law, economics, policies
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    Translated into 14 languages


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