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8.3.  Appraisal and outlook of the political union of the EU

    The last storey of the European edifice - that of political union - is being built slowly and at uneven pace. The wing of internal affairs has much advanced, while the wing of external affairs is far behind and for the most part is still outside the main European edifice. This is due to the different methods used for the construction of each one of these wings. The perception of the need for a common policy in internal affairs has led to the effective disbanding of the so-called third pillar of the Union and to the placement of most subjects concerning it inside the principal edifice of the Union, which is shaped by common policies and is managed by the Community decision-making procedure, now called ordinary legislative procedure [see sections 3.1 and 4.3].

    As in all areas where common policies exist, much progress was made, concerning the internal affairs of the Union, since the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam and particularly since the programme set by the Tampere European Council for the creation of an area of freedom, security and justice (now Title V of the treaty of Lisbon). The achievements of the common policy include: reinforcement of the rights of citizens and their families to move and reside freely in the territory of the Union; foundations of a common immigration and asylum policy; consolidation of the integrated management of external borders; better access to justice, notably through application of the principle of mutual recognition in the civil and commercial spheres; introduction of a European arrest warrant; and cooperation through legislation to combat cross-border crime and terrorism.

    In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the USA and of 11 March 2004, in Madrid, Member States reinforced their counter-terrorism machinery in addition to enhancing international cooperation. They also assessed their counter-terrorism capacity, adopting new laws and allocating additional financial or personnel resources to strengthen their machinery. They placed special emphasis on the exchange of information, coordination and cooperation at both national and international levels, protection of critical infrastructure, including the identification and protection of vulnerabilities, and crisis and management of their consequences. Nowadays, the greatest challenge of the Union in this area is tackling the root causes of illegal migration by its aid to development policy, notably through the promotion of economic growth, good governance and the protection of human rights in countries of origin [see section 24.1].

    An important element of both the area of freedom, security and justice and of the common foreign and security policy is the protection of the external borders of the Union. The single market and the Schengen agreement have de facto rendered common the external borders of the EU. Even the innermost countries of the Union are exposed to illegal actions and threats occurring at the borders of the outermost countries. There is a clear common interest for the development of a common policy for the management of the external borders of the Union, in order to protect them against illegal immigration, trafficking of goods and human beings and, of course, passage of terrorists. This policy should entail common legislation, integrated risk analysis, burden sharing, cooperation mechanisms and coordinated staff. Moreover, major external challenges confront Europe's area of freedom, security and justice, namely terrorism, organised crime and illegal immigration. The EU should therefore promote the rule of law, security and stability outside its borders by means of all its external policies, including the CFSP. Citizens would certainly appreciate such a policy, which would be "common" not just in name.

    To safeguard its area of freedom, security and justice, the Union must develop a capacity to act and be regarded as a significant partner on the international scene. This is the objective of the foreign policy of the Union. The Treaty on the EU invites the Union to "assert its interests and values on the international scene" (Article 32 TEU), but it does not give it the instruments to pursue this goal effectively. Certainly, some progress has been made. The common foreign and security policy (CFSP) has been given in Amsterdam more coherent instruments and a more effective decision-making procedure. Common strategies and "constructive abstention" give the possibility to the European Council and the Council to act by qualified majority, even if some Member States do not agree with a common policy. Through the Amsterdam and Nice developments of the European (renamed ''common'') security and defence policy and the strengthening of its capabilities, both civil and military, the Union has established crisis-management structures and procedures which enable it to analyse and plan, to take decisions and, where NATO as such is not involved, to launch and carry out military crisis-management operations.

    The greatest innovation of the treaty of Lisbon in the field of external affairs is the creation of the post of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. There are two principal benefits emanating from this important post: the coordination by the High Representative of all aspects of the external affairs of the Union (foreign and security policies, cooperation and aid to development policies); and the right of initiative gained, through the High Representative, by the Commission in the field of foreign and security policies. The tasks of the High Representative are assisted by the European external action service and by the European Defence Agency. These improvements brought by the treaty of Lisbon should allow the Union to better coordinate the foreign policies of its Member States and better defend its interests in the international arena. There are, therefore, signs that the common foreign and security policy of the Union is slowly gaining momentum.

    In addition to these innovations for the overall common foreign and security policy, the treaty of Lisbon has improved the functioning of the particular common security and defence policy. The permanent structured cooperation may allow some Member States to better organize their common security and defence, even when some of their partners disagree. In particular, the members of the Eurocorps may develop it as a permanent structured cooperation, using the legal instruments provided by the treaty of Lisbon and invite their partners to join this corps, which has already proved its usefulness. The new solidarity and mutual assistance clauses show that the Member States of the Union are now prepared to act jointly and assist one of them who is the victim of a terrorist attack, a natural or man-made disaster or of armed aggression on its territory (Articles 42 § 7 TEU and 222 TFEU). This spirit of solidarity is absolutely necessary for building a political union on top of the European edifice. Some Member States have, in addition to a common market, a common currency and, therefore, more common interests to defend. They will probably lead the way, as they did with the Schengen agreement which led to the common area of freedom, security and justice.

    For the time being, however, the ''common foreign and security policy'' of the EU is ''common'' only by name and its Member States are still not speaking with a single voice in the scene of world affairs. The truth is that a real common policy cannot be achieved with intergovernmental cooperation and the unanimity rule that characterises it. The very term “common foreign and security policy” is misleading. The citizens hear “common policy” and do not see anything resembling that. If the Treaty called for ''cooperation'' in foreign and security policy, the citizens would at least understand better what is meant by it. Now, they rightly believe that their political leaders fool them when they speak about a common policy and at the first test of such a policy hide behind their national interests (real or imaginary), in order to undermine it. In fact, the Member States of the Union were radically divided when their supposedly common foreign and security policy was tested for the first time in the March 2003 war and occupation of Iraq under American aegis, without the consent of the Security Council of the United Nations. They showed then to the whole world that they speak about a common foreign and security policy, but they are not ready to make it work.

    So as to start becoming a common policy, the CFSP should be provided with the legal means of such a policy, i.e. basically decision-making by an enhanced majority of the Member States and the population of the Union with full participation of the Commission, the Parliament, the European Court of Justice and specific organs in the taking and the execution of the common decisions [see section 4.3]. In addition, this policy should be given the necessary resources and instruments, such as budget, efficient procedures, network of external delegations, armed forces under common lead, etc. Since it is rather improbable that there could be unanimity for the realisation of all these means of a real common foreign and security policy, this could be achieved, if the Member States, which would want to proceed towards the stage of political union, established a European Political Union with this objective. This should be based on a treaty signed and ratified by the willing pioneers, but should be open to all the members of the actual European Union who would want to join them at a later stage.

    The same considerations apply to the common defence policy, because a foreign policy that is not held up by adequate forces does not command respect. The common security and defence policy should be based on a common armament policy, which could rationalise, boost and make more competitive the armaments industries of the Member States. This could mean, inter alia, that the single market and common commercial policy could be applied to the defence industries. This integration could alleviate the current deficiencies of European military capabilities in the field of intelligence, logistics, communications and air transport systems. Effective public procurement and standardisation of armaments industries could help restructure, rationalise and strengthen European defence. When Europe realised its full defence potential, it would be ready to assume its role as a global player.

    The European Union does not have to wait until it has built up its feeble military forces in order to have an independent international policy and world influence capable to rival those of the United States. The EU is already the biggest commercial power in the world and the largest provider of funds to developing countries. It could and should use these advantages to assume a leading role in the world scene. The world today is not one in which military forces are automatically the most effective means of power. NATO is a relic of the Cold War. It no longer serves to protect Europe from any threat. On the other hand, for the United States, NATO has to exist because it provides the indispensable material and strategic infrastructure for American military and strategic deployments throughout Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East and Africa. NATO procures, indeed, to the United States a military presence, usually with extraterritorial privileges in most EU countries. If NATO is, as it claims, an alliance of independent and politically equal countries, the EU countries, which have an overwhelming majority in it, should have the democratic right to direct its political decisions towards their own national interests, which may but do not necessarily coincide with those of the USA.

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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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