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  Part VI: The external policies of the European Union

  1. EU commercial policy
  2. EU's development aid policy
  3. The external relations of the European Union

The EU treaty declares that the Union's action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law (Article 21 TEU). The Union is in fact present on the world stage in three roles, played mainly, until the end of 2009, in the name of its European Community personality, which the treaty of Lisbon has replaced by the European Union personality (Article 47 TEU): common commercial policy, development aid policy and external relations. The first two are leading roles - as the EU is the world's largest trading entity and the largest provider of funds for the developing countries - while the role of the external relations of the ex Community, which is for the time being secondary, is completed and often intermingled with the developing role of the Union in a common foreign and security policy (CFSP) [see chapter 8 and section 1.5.3]. The three often overlap as development aid is tied in with commercial policy and commercial policy with the ex Community's external relations or the Union's CFSP. But, whereas the commercial and the development aid policies are managed with the successful Community method [see section 4.3] and have a global impact, the CFSP is run with the ineffective intergovernmental method and is common only in name [see section 8.2.2]. As the three policies should ideally support each other, the ineptness of the CFSP handicaps the performance of the external policies of the European Union.

In any case, through its various international roles, the European Community/Union has diplomatic relations with 162 countries, which for their part have representations in Brussels. The Union has its own representations, set up by the Commission, in most of these countries and in international organisations. These representations are superseded by the European External Action Service, which comprises officials from relevant departments of the General Secretariat of the Council and of the Commission as well as staff seconded from national diplomatic services of the Member States (Article 27 TEU) [see section 8.2.1]. In organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and in international fisheries organisations, the Union speaks in the name of and in place of the Member States, through the mouthpiece of the Commission [see section 4.1.2]. It participates in the work of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and has observer status in the United Nations and in some of its specialised organisations. It has relations with other international organisations, such as the Council of Europe, "the G8" and the ''G20''.

The European Community/Union has signed and manages association or cooperation agreements with more than 120 countries and is also responsible for numerous multilateral agreements. When these agreements cover an area for which it has exclusive responsibility, such as international trade, agriculture or fisheries, the European Union is the sole party to them on behalf of its Member States. In other cases (some agreements on the environment, transport and so on), the Union is a party in addition to its Member States.

Regulation 236/2014 lays down the rules and conditions for the provision by the Union of financial assistance to actions, including action programmes and other measures, under the following instruments for financing external action for the period from 2014 to 2020: the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) [see section 24.1]; the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) [see section 24.4]; the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) [see section 25.4]; the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace [see section 24.4]; the Instrument for Pre–accession Assistance (IPA II) [see section 25.2]; and the Partnership Instrument for cooperation with third countries. The common rules and procedures for financing the external action of the Union should be consistent with the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the EU laid down in the Financial Regulation of the Union [see section 3.4].

The Partnership Instrument for cooperation with third countries supports cooperation measures with countries with which the Union has a strategic interest in promoting links, especially developed and developing countries which play an increasingly prominent role in global affairs, including in foreign policy, the international economy and trade, multilateral fora and global governance, and in addressing challenges of global concern, or in which the Union has other significant interests [Regulation 234/2014]. The financial envelope of the Partnership Instrument for the period 2014-2020 is 955 million EUR. The measures financed under the Partnership Instrument reflect the following specific Union objectives: (a) supporting the Union's bilateral, regional and inter-regional cooperation partnership strategies by promoting policy dialogue and by developing collective approaches and responses to challenges of global concern; (b) implementing the international dimension of the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy [see section 7.3]; (c) improving access to partner country markets and boosting trade, investment and business opportunities for companies from the Union, while eliminating barriers to market access and investment, by means of economic partnerships, business and regulatory cooperation; and (d) enhancing widespread understanding and visibility of the Union and of its role on the world scene by means of public diplomacy, people-to-people contacts, cooperation in educational and academic matters, think tank cooperation and outreach activities to promote the Union's values and interests.

If one adds the international personalities of the twenty-eight Member States - with their different and sometimes conflicting interests in the international arena - to the occasionally identical but at times distinct activities of the European Community and the European Union (until the coming into force of the treaty of Lisbon, which has unified them), one understands that the external relations of the former and the foreign policy of the later are bewildering subjects, not only for the partners of the Union, but also for the Member States themselves. Having examined the common foreign and security policy as a component of the future political integration of the Union, we now try to instil some systematic order in the study of its external relations, which have existed since the very beginning of the European Economic Community.

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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

Translated into 14 languages

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