Policy evaluation 5: Common Foreign Security Policy

The specification says you need to know the following about CFSP.

  • In particular, candidates need to be aware of developments in Common Foreign and Security Policy – why this has become desirable within the EU; the steps that have been taken towards achieving this and the extent to which such steps are perceived as being successful. 

1) CFSP has been hard to achieve because of several reasons. Some countries such as the UK and Poland favour NATO as Europe’s defence wing possibly because the UK has always favoured aligning itself with the US. France on the other hand saw the introduction of a Common Foreign Security Policy as an opportunity for Europe to challenge the US militarily and become more independent however most EU states don’t have the financial ability to back this type of scheme nor the will, pacifist states such as Denmark have little interest in foreign excursions. Historical differences between countries also makes a CFSP difficult for example France’s intervention in Mali occurred because Mali is an former French colony so although the EU has pledged 520m euros to help the country, it is unlikely you would find any other EU country asking for intervention.

2) A reason for a CFSP is that it could mean cheaper defence costs if countries did it collectively. In a time of recession, governments are looking to spend less on defence and so CFSP could enable that to happen however this would involve a pooling of sovereignty which some countries may perceive as a loss of sovereignty. Foreign Policy and defence in the UK has always been viewed rather nationalistically and so it can be a difficult thing to sell to the public

3) The introduction of Cathy Ashton as the High Representative on Foreign Affairs with the Lisbon treaty 2009 gave CFSP a higher profile within EU goals. Since then although possibly she was not the right appointment having no previous experience in Foreign Affairs, the EU has come to consensus on sanctions in Libya and more recently supplying rebels in Syria with arms. The European External Action Service was a key policy after Lisbon and has led to over 140 EU delegations and offices being established across the world. The EU is the largest single donor of development aid and arguably CFSP has been a success for integration.

4) CFSP does however rely on unanimity. In practise this can be difficult as seen with Iraq and Kosovo. Furthermore, is there really a need for European hard power? The EU was meant to be a soft power body, the introduction of CFSP suggests something else. During a time of economic crisis, focus on CFSP has lessened but conflicts across the world have put the spotlight on EU decision making and Ashton has become increasingly recognised as the face of EU foreign policy.