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8.2.2.  Decision-making in CFSP matters

    Decision-making in CFSP matters is quite different from the EU's legislative procedure that administers all other matters [see section 4.3]. Even after the amendments brought about by the treaty of Lisbon, this policy is subject to specific rules and procedures. It is defined and implemented by the European Council and the Council acting unanimously, except where the Treaties provide otherwise. The adoption of legislative acts is excluded (Article 24 TEU). By derogation from the unanimity rule, the Council may act by qualified majority when adopting a decision defining a Union action or position on the basis of a decision or a specific request of the European Council (Article 31 TEU). The Court of Justice of the European Union does not have jurisdiction with respect to the provisions relating to the common foreign and security policy nor with respect to acts adopted on the basis of those provisions (Article 275 TFEU).

    Decisions of the European Council on the strategic interests and objectives of the Union may concern the relations of the Union with a specific country or region or may be thematic in approach. They must define their duration, and the means to be made available by the Union and the Member States. The High Representative of the Union, for the area of common foreign and security policy, and the Commission, for other areas of external action, may submit joint proposals to the Council (Article 22 TEU).

    Where the international situation requires operational action by the Union, the Council adopts the necessary decisions. They lay down their objectives, scope, the means to be made available to the Union, if necessary their duration, and the conditions for their implementation. These decisions commit the Member States in the positions they adopt and in the conduct of their activity. Whenever there is any plan to adopt a national position or take national action pursuant to a Council decision, information must be provided by the Member State concerned in time to allow, if necessary, for prior consultations within the Council (Article 28 TEU).

    The Council adopts decisions which define the approach of the Union to a particular matter of a geographical or thematic nature. Member States must ensure that their national policies conform to the Union positions (Article 29 TEU). Member States must consult one another within the European Council and the Council on any matter of foreign and security policy of general interest in order to determine a common approach. Before undertaking any action on the international scene or entering into any commitment which could affect the Union's interests, each Member State must consult the others within the European Council or the Council. Member States must show mutual solidarity (Article 32 TEU). In international organisations and at international conferences where not all the Member States participate, those which do take part must uphold the Union's positions (Article 34 TEU).

    The "constructive abstention" allows some Member States not to participate in a joint action, thus making it easier to adopt initiatives which have a broad measure of support (two thirds of the weighted majority). As seen above, decisions on CFSP matters are taken by the European Council and the Council acting unanimously but any member of the Council may abstain in order to allow a decision to be taken. In such a case, although it will not be obliged to apply the decision, it will accept that the decision commits the Union and will refrain from any action likely to conflict with or impede Union action based on that decision. If the abstaining members represent more than one third of the votes in the Council, the decision shall not be taken (Article 31 TEU).

    On matters not having military or defence implications, the Council may act by qualified majority, when adopting a decision defining a Union action or position on the basis of a decision or of a specific request of the European Council. However, if a member of the Council declares that, for vital and stated reasons of national policy, it intends to oppose the adoption of a decision to be taken by qualified majority, the Council may, acting by qualified majority, request that the matter be referred to the European Council for decision by unanimity (Article 31 TEU). The possibility of a blocking veto remains, even though a Member State has to offer some explanations to use it. Such explanations are not a deterrent of veto, if one Member State is determined to defend its interests, which diverge from those of the majority. It transpires that the CFSP method is an improved intergovernmental cooperation method, but not much more than that. Even with the improvements brought by the Treaty of Lisbon, the foreign and security policy cannot become a “common policy” by the means put at its disposal.

    Administrative expenditure concerning the CFSP is charged to the Union budget. Operating expenditure is also charged to the Union budget, except for such expenditure arising from operations having military or defence implications and cases where the Council acting unanimously decides otherwise. In cases where expenditure is not charged to the Union budget, it must be charged to the Member States in accordance with the gross national product scale, unless the Council acting unanimously decides otherwise (Article 41 TEU).

    Α European Union Institute for Security Studies [Decision 2014/75] based in Paris and a European Union Satellite Centre [Decision 2014/401] with its headquarters at Torrejón de Ardoz in Spain support the decision-making process of the Union in the context of the CFSP, in particular of the ESDP, and contribute to its development, notably by conducting research and analysis in relevant fields.

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