Select Committee on European Union Forty-First Report


CHAPTER 6: THE EU, A PLAYER ON THE GLOBAL STAGE?

Introduction

280. The Convention was mandated by the Laeken Council to consider 'Europe's new role in a globalised world'.[125] Against a backdrop of the war in Iraq in March 2003, the EU's international role became central to the Convention's deliberations. The Iraq crisis exposed very considerable differences in Member States' approaches to foreign affairs. The effect, it would seem, was to limit the Convention's proposals on CFSP to structural changes. The Union's competence over CFSP and Member State obligations in this field (Article I - 15) remain unchanged from the TEU (Article 11). Similarly, the Union's CFSP objectives remain largely unchanged (Article III - 193).[126]

281. The key question that this section seeks to address is whether the institutional changes proposed in the draft Treaty will make the EU more efficient at realizing its international objectives. In this chapter we look at provisions concerned with foreign policy and defence. The EU also has a significant role in international trade and development co-operation, topics which are not discussed here.[127]

Security and Defence

282. The most far-reaching proposals for change that the draft Treaty makes on CFSP are in the articles concerned with security. It was expected that the draft Treaty would update the Petersberg Tasks (Article III - 210) to reflect the EU's growing role in peace-keeping operations. Similarly, the inclusion of a 'solidarity clause' (Article I - 42 and Article III - 231) follows from a well-received recommendation by the Defence Working Group that Member States should commit to mobilising all instruments to prevent or respond to a terrorist attack or natural disaster within the EU.

283. Article I - 40 proposes some very significant changes to the Union's security policy. Article I - 40 (6) (along with Article III - 213) proposes that those Member States 'whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another' shall be able to collaborate more closely using EU institutions. At the moment, all Member States (except Denmark) decide on all forms of military co-operation for the Union by unanimity. The Government, in paragraph 96 of the White Paper, emphasised that it would not want to see enhanced military co-operation between some Member States written into the Treaty undermining "detailed and military robust arrangements (which were agreed by all Member States at the Nice European Council) to provide for flexibility in ESDP".

284. More recent evidence to the Committee from the Ministry of Defence[128] was that "we do see potential possibilities and opportunities from this concept [of new forms of co-operation]" although problems remained and the attitude was "cautious". It appears that the Government's position has changed as a result of Prime Minister Blair's meeting with President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder on 20 September 2003 in Berlin[129]. We urge the Government to recall in the forthcoming negotiations the view expressed to us[130] that "none of these structures pretends to provide an operational EU military command structure either at the strategic or the tactical levels. There are no standing EU headquarters (just as there is no EU standing force). Any such EU operational command structure would duplicate existing NATO and national assets".

285. The proposal for closer co-operation between some Member States is combined with a proposal giving these Member States the choice (but not the obligation) to sign up to a mutual defence clause (Article I - 40 (7) and Article III - 214). The Government's White Paper (paragraph 95) made clear its intention to resist the inclusion of any security guarantee in the new treaty which could rival or come to replace the security guarantee established through NATO. We fully support the Government in this.

286. Article I - 40 (3) further proposes a European Armaments and Strategic Research Agency to co-ordinate defence technology research, encourage harmonisation of arms procurement between Member States and ensure that national defence equipment is compatible throughout the EU (Article I -40). We strongly support the creation of such an agency since it could improve the capabilities and inter-operabilities of the armed forces of Member States, but care needs to be taken to ensure that it does not become a tool for protectionism or constrain the ability of Member States to order armaments independently.

Foreign Policy

287. The most significant change proposed to the EU's foreign policy is a reduction in the number of individuals who represent the EU internationally.

288. At present there are four positions which represent the EU internationally:

·  the head of Government of the Member State holding the Presidency of the Council (which changes twice a year);

·  the High Representative based at the Council;

·  the Commission President; and

·  the Commissioner for External Relations.

289. The draft Treaty proposes to reduce the number of EU representatives to two positions: the European Council President and the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

290. Article I - 21 proposes that the European Council Chair would take on some of the CFSP representational responsibilities currently held by the presidency. 'The President of the European Council shall at his or her level and in that capacity ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy'. These responsibilities shall continue to be exercised 'without prejudice to the responsibilities of the Union's Minister for Foreign Affairs'. Nonetheless, the exact relationship between the two remains unclear.

291. The draft Treaty proposes the creation of Union Minister for Foreign Affairs (Article I-27 and Article III - 197). This office will bring together in one, 'double-hatted' role the functions of the present High Representative and the Commissioner for External Relations. The point of this 'double-hatting' would be to ensure that the EU's diplomacy and aid work better together, thus enhancing efficiency.

292. It is proposed that the new Minister:

·  will be appointed by the European Council by QMV with agreement of Commission President;

·  shall contribute proposals to the development of CFSP and ESDP, which the Minister shall carry out as mandated by the Council;

·  shall be one of the Vice Presidents of the Commission;

·  within the Commission, shall be responsible for handling external relations and co-ordinating other aspects of the Union's external action, including trade;

·  shall be bound by Commission procedure for the Minister's responsibilities within the Commission;

·  shall chair the Foreign Affairs Council;

·  shall ensure implementation of European decisions adopted by the European Council and Council of Ministers;

·  shall represent the Union for matters relating to CFSP and conduct political dialogue on the Union's behalf;

·  shall express the Union's position in international organisations and international conferences;

·  shall be assisted by a European External Action Service which will work in co-operation with the Diplomatic Services of Member States (as set out in Part I Article 27 and Part III Article 197).

293. The Government told us[131] that the primary aim of the proposal was to make CFSP more efficient and effective. Peter Hain assured us that the Minister for Foreign Affairs will be accountable to Member State governments for CFSP issues:

"we are very clear that it must be a post accountable to and appointed by the European Council, that is to say, Heads of Government. There is a lot of detail to negotiate to get that satisfactorily pinned down so that the link and the co-ordination with the President of the Commission does not result, as it were, in a reverse Commission takeover." (Q64)

294. The complexity of the EU's international representation is one of the reasons the Union has been ineffective in achieving its foreign policy goals. In its representational aspects 'double-hatting' is a good idea. We have strong concerns, however, about the policy role the new minister for Foreign Affairs is to have. We have discussed these concerns in detail in our earlier Report.[132]

295. Chief among our concerns remains the relationship the Union Minister would have with the Commission. There is a danger that as vice-president of the Commission, the Minister would be subject to Commission collegiality. Given that the Minister will have the right of initiative over the whole area of CFSP this is a serious problem. There are risks in the opposite direction. The Minister's role in ensuring coherence across the Union's external policy could lead to micromanagement by the Council of such Commission policy areas as transport and environment, as well as trade and development.

296. We urge the Government to negotiate the role of the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs with extreme care. The person appointed to this post must remain firmly based in the Council, accountable to Member States. In order to make the status of the post less susceptible to unnecessary suspicion, we propose that a better job title be found, perhaps "Foreign Affairs Representative".

297. The Union Minister will have a vast role in representing, co-ordinating and implementing the Union's policy on foreign affairs, external relations, defence, trade and overseas development. We are therefore concerned that the Minister have sufficient institutional support. We support the creation of a 'Joint European External Action Service' which would bring together all the present Commission External Relations staff with Council staff.

Decision-making in foreign and security policy

298. Many, in the Convention and elsewhere, have suggested that retaining the unanimity rule in CFSP in a Union of 25 will make the policy impractical. Some have suggested that an effective CFSP can only be achieved through QMV decision-making. We do not share this view. We firmly believe that foreign and security policy is central to the national interest, and, as such, each country must retain the right of veto. We are therefore pleased to note that Article I -39 and Article III - 194 restate the principles that CFSP is intergovernmental and is decided, as a rule, by unanimity.

299. The Treaties of Amsterdam and Nice introduced some QMV decision-making into CFSP. These exceptions to the rule of unanimity relate to the Council of Ministers taking implementing decisions. In the draft Treaty, Article III - 201 (2) (a), (c) and (d) restates the use of QMV when appointing a special representative (introduced at Nice); or when adopting an implementing decision based either on a strategic interest or objective, or alternatively an action or position, agreed to by the European Council by unanimity (introduced at Amsterdam).

300. The draft Treaty proposes one extension to QMV in CFSP. According to sub-clause 2(b) of Article III - 201, the Council of Ministers would be able to take a decision by QMV 'when adopting a decision on a Union action or position, on a proposal which the Minister has put to it following a specific request to him or her from the European Council made on its own initiative or that of the Minister'.

301. In other words, the European Council would decide by unanimity on whether to mandate the Minister to make a proposal which could be decided by QMV. The suggestion to do so could come from the Minister. This extension of QMV seems warranted given the new role of the proposed Minister for Foreign Affairs. We are pleased to note that the proposal in earlier drafts that joint proposals from the Minister and the Commission be decided by QMV has been dropped, in favour of this more limited extension of QMV.

302. We recommend that Article III - 201(2)(b) be amended by deleting the words "or that of the Minister" so that it clearly states that any implementing decision based on a proposal coming from the Minister must be preceded by a unanimous European Council request for such a proposal. This is particularly important since the Minister will have formal right of initiative across the whole area of CFSP, including defence[133].

303. The extension of QMV is thus limited to one new proposal. A passerelle clause is, however, suggested for CFSP. Article I - 39 (8) states that 'The European Council may unanimously decide that the Council of Ministers should act by qualified majority voting in cases other than those referred to in Part III' (repeated in Article III - 201(3)). In other words, Member States may, by unanimous decision, choose to act by QMV in other areas than those specified in Article III - 201 (2). As we argued above in paragraph 177, we wholly resist the inclusion of a catch-all passerelle clause in the draft Treaty. Having a passerelle clause for CFSP, with the safeguards set out in paragraph 178 above, could be of value in the interests of some flexibility.

304. Peter Hain confirmed that extending QMV into defence was a matter on which the Government would not give way (Q 27). The Government has admitted that there are difficulties in drawing a line between defence and foreign affairs[134]. Article III 201 (4) states that none of the exceptions to the rule of unanimity specified in the article shall apply to 'decisions having military or defence implications'. We are satisfied that this provides a sufficient safeguard against any extension of QMV into defence, provided that the Article also catches any attempt to extend QMV to defence issues under the provisions of Articles 39 and 40.

305. We strongly support the inclusion of the right of any Member State to require a vote not to be taken by citing reasons of national policy (as set out in the final paragraph in Article III - 201 (2): see also Peter Hain's assurance (QQ 27-29)).

Relations with International Organisations

306. Member States will continue to be obliged to co-ordinate their actions in international organisations and uphold the common EU position (if such a position exists) in international organisations, including the UN (Article III - 206).

307. A new provision, aimed at raising the Union's profile with the UN Security Council, states that:

"When the Union has defined a position on a subject which is on the United Nations Security Council agenda, those Member States which sit on the Security Council shall request that the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs be asked to present the Union's position". (Article III - 206 (2)).

308. We have raised concerns[135] about the proposal to mandate the Union Minister to present the EU's position in the UN Security Council. We recognise that there may be considerable value in having the Union's Minister speaking in the Security Council but this should not be a mandatory requirement. The word "may" should therefore replace the word "shall".

Openness and Accountability in the Union's conduct of CFSP

309. We are concerned that the proposals for the scrutiny of the EU's foreign affairs and defence do not go far enough. We are pleased to note that Article I - 39 (6) restates the European Parliament's right to be 'regularly consulted on the main aspects and basic choices of the common foreign and security policy and shall be kept informed of how it evolves' (see also Article III - 205). As CFSP remains intergovernmental, national parliaments must exercise effective scrutiny. Peter Hain argued that, as a result, national parliamentarians should be informed as far upstream as possible in the policy process (Q52).We accordingly welcome his agreement that the system of depositing documents for scrutiny in these areas should be developed (Q53) but in our view a new scrutiny process is required.

310. Particularly in the light of the possible demise of the Parliamentary assembly of the Western European Union, there is a need for a collective forum for national parliamentary scrutiny of CSFP and defence issues. We recommend that there should be a parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Union. This should be composed of both national parliamentarians and European parliamentarians. It should be an advisory body and thus not have decision making powers.

Conclusions

311. In the CFSP field, the draft Treaty consolidates the EU as a union of Member States. CFSP will continue to be intergovernmental, and, as a rule, decided by unanimity.

312. The final treaty may come to increase the effectiveness of how the CFSP is run. Much will depend on the detail of the proposed Minister for Foreign Affairs' role. We are not convinced that enhanced military co-operation between some Member States is the answer to a more effective security policy.

313. We remain, however, unconvinced that the draft Treaty goes far enough in ensuring proper parliamentary scrutiny of CFSP. More could be done to increase the openness and accountability of the way the Union conducts CFSP.


125   Annexes to the Presidency Conclusions, Laeken, 14 and 15 December 2001. Back

126   By contrast, in the spring of 2003, the Council of Ministers asked the High Representative, Javier Solana, to prepare the EU's first Security Strategy (SO138/03). The Government has confirmed that the Security Strategy, which specifically deals with policy, will not be included in the Constitutional Treaty. (See the letter from Peter Hain printed on pages 16-17 of our evidence below). Back

127   The EU's international development policy will be the subject of a separate, forthcoming report from the Committee. Back

128   Evidence taken by Sub-Committee C (9 October 2003). See Q5 of the transcript printed in Appendix 5 below. Back

129   Meeting between the Prime Minister, President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder, Berlin 20th September 2003. Back

130   Response to the Committee's 11th Report, Session 2001-02 on ESDP, paragraph 20.  Back

131   Explanatory Memorandum 724/03.  Back

132   23rd Report, Session 2002-03, HL Paper 107.  Back

133   See the letter from Peter Hain printed on pages 16-17 of our evidence below. Back

134   See evidence printed as Q 6 in our 15th Report, Session 2002-03, HL Paper 80.  Back

135   See our 23rd Report, Session 2002-03, HL Paper 107. Back


 
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