The Foreign Policy of the European Union
Assessing Europe's Role in the World
Brookings Institution Press
Copyright © 2009 Brookings Institution Press
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European Union Foreign Policy: A Historical Overview
In the words of Walter Hallstein, "One reason for creating the European Community [was] to enable Europe to play its full part in world affairs. ... [It is] vital for the Community to be able to speak with one voice and to act as one in economic relations with the rest of the world." However, the early European Community did not have a coherent foreign policy stricto senso. The European Economic Community (EEC) treaty did, however, contain important provisions in the field of external relations that evolved and became increasingly substantive as the years went by. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a comprehensive view of the evolution of European foreign policy (EFP) in its various forms and stages. The chronological description presented here links the different actions and decisions taken by the EEC with the external and domestic events facing the member states at that time.
The European Defense Community
During the negotiations for the Schuman Plan (1950), on which the agreement to form the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) is based, concerns emerged about a possible German rearmament. German disarmament after World War II had created a sort of power vacuum in the heart of Europe, which was dramatically emphasized after the Korean War. The United States suggested creating an integrated operational structure within the sphere of the Atlantic alliance within which a German army could participate under direct American control. This arrangement was to become the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The French government rejected this proposal and offered as an alternative the so-called Pleven Plan (1950), named after French prime minister René Pleven. The Pleven Plan called for the creation of a European army that would be placed under the control of a European ministry of defense. The soldiers were to come from the participating countries, including Germany. The plan, nevertheless, discriminated against Germany in that the future of the German army would have been entirely-not partially, as in the other countries-embedded within the European army.
The French proposal included all the members of the North Atlantic alliance, as well as Germany. However, only Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Luxembourg, besides France, met in Paris on February 15, 1951, to start negotiating a possible new treaty. Holland joined on October 8, while the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Norway, and Denmark sent observers. The outcome was the European Defense Community (EDC) agreement signed on May 27, 1952. As Jean Monnet's brainchild, the European Defense Community differed from the Pleven Plan and proposed a supranational structure along the lines of the ECSC. The EDC also implied a certain degree of economic integration, necessary considering that military integration in many ways called for a standardization of industrial-war capabilities.
Between 1953 and 1954, the EDC treaty was ratified by Germany and by the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg). The treaty was approved by the competent parliamentary commission in Italy, but the parliament as such did not take a vote, waiting for France's lead instead. In the meantime, in Paris, Robert Schuman had been replaced by Georges Bidault as minister of foreign affairs in a new government led by Pierre Mendès-France that also included the Gaullists. Public opinion was divided between the cédistes (who favored ratification) and the anticédistes (opposed), and as a consequence the treaty failed to pass a vote in the National Assembly on August 30, 1954.
The problem of German rearmament remained open. A new initiative came this time from the English foreign secretary, Anthony Eden. This initiative benefited from U.S. support. Throughout 1954, a number of agreements were signed allowing for Germany's membership in NATO, Italian and German membership in the Brussels Pact, the creation of the Western European Union (WEU), Germany's assurance that it would not engage in the creation of atomic arms, and a British agreement to station two British divisions in Germany. The question of European defense thus became a transatlantic issue and a taboo in Europe for decades to come.
The European Economic Community
As a consequence of the EDC's failure, the Treaties of Rome did not deal with foreign policy. However, the treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) did foresee some degree of foreign competence in the EEC's external relations. These included: a common external trade tariff (as a complement to the customs union) and external trades; the possibility for other states to join the EEC; the establishment of a free trade area with the French, Belgian, Dutch, and Italian territories; and the creation of a European Fund for Development, as stipulated in article 131 of the treaty. Similarly, articles 110-16 dealt with commercial policy, in relation both to third states and to international organizations. The treaty affirmed in article 110 that, by establishing a customs union, the member states aimed to contribute "to the harmonious development of world trade, the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade, and the lowering of customs barriers." To that extent, they were to create a common commercial policy based "on uniform principles, particularly in regard to changes in tariff rates, the conclusions of tariff and trade agreements." The member states were "in respect of all matters of particular interest to the common market, [to] proceed within the framework of international organizations of an economic character only by common action."
The Commission was given a leading role in the field of commercial policy. Not only was the Commission entrusted with the power to submit proposals to the Council of Ministers for the implementation of the common commercial policy, it also had the ability to "make recommendations to the Council, which shall authorize the Commission to open the necessary negotiations" if agreements with third countries needed to be negotiated. For a member state facing economic difficulties, the Commission could authorize the Council to take the necessary protective measures as foreseen in article 115 TEEC. In article 228 the treaty also entrusts the Commission with the power to negotiate agreements between the EEC and one or more states or international organizations. Agreements such as those based on tariff negotiations with third countries regarding the common customs tariff were to be concluded by the Council, after consulting with the National Assembly where so required by the treaty.
Articles 131 to 136 of the treaty dealt with the associations of non-European countries and territories having special relations with the EEC countries. The possibility of enlarging the EEC was addressed in article 237, which established that "any European State may apply to become a member of the Community. It shall address its application to the Council, which shall act unanimously after obtaining the opinion of the Commission." Last but not least, article 210 TEEC established that the Community had legal "personality" or status. Even today, only the Community possesses such legal personality. As Nicola Verola explains in the next chapter, it is only with the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty that legal personality will be attributed to the European Union.
The Fifth (French) Republic
In the spring of 1958, following the Algerian crisis, General Charles de Gaulle was called to lead the French government. He accepted on the condition that a new national constitution would be prepared. The new constitution, approved by a referendum in September 1958, marked the beginning of the Fifth Republic. In November 1958, Charles de Gaulle became its first elected president. Contrary to pessimistic expectations that he would destroy the newborn EEC, de Gaulle quickly adopted the financial and monetary measures necessary to implement the common market in France.
Yet de Gaulle had a rather contradictory personal view of Europe and of France's role within it. On the one hand, he wanted a "European Europe," able to counterbalance the United States and the USSR. On the other hand, he was eager to keep Europe as a "Europe des Etats," a community in which the member states would retain their full national sovereignty. This contradiction came to characterize the French approach to the process of European integration and constitutes one of the major contradictions of a European foreign policy today.
De Gaulle instinctively averted any institutional shift toward greater European integration, while at the same time pushing for stronger coordination between the six member states ("the Six") in the field of foreign policy. With this in mind, in 1958 he proposed regular meetings between the EEC foreign ministers. This proposal was approved on November 23, 1959. The first meeting was held in January 1960 and is the basis for today's CAGRE (the Conseil Affaires Générales et Relations Extérieures), an essential element of the EFP. De Gaulle further reiterated his support for European cooperation and the need for meetings at the level of heads of state and government. The first summit of this kind was held in Paris, on February 10-11, 1961, with the assistance of the foreign ministers; it was the precursor to the European Council. The Dutch foreign minister, Joseph Luns, however, rejected the idea of regular meetings and was even less fond of the idea of creating an ad hoc secretariat. Hence the EEC leaders decided to create the so-called Fouchet Committee, which would be responsible for developing proposals for political cooperation. The Fouchet Committee's report was presented on October 19, 1961. It proposed a union of states with the aim of developing a common foreign and defense policy. Unsurprisingly, these proposals faced resistance by a number of member states, and after several modifications the report was ultimately put aside despite de Gaulle's rage.
The Origins of the European Union's Development Policy
In the early 1960s, the EEC took its first steps to form a development policy. In 1963 the Yaoundé Convention was signed by the EEC and the eighteen former colonies of the Six. In 1969 the convention was renewed for a period of five years. Initially, it was essentially a policy toward (francophone) Africa. Following the 1973 EEC enlargement it was then extended to cover the African members of the British Commonwealth and other former colonies in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The Yaoundé Convention (1963-75) maintained the system introduced by the Treaty of Rome: an aid allocation for five years, channeled through the European Development Fund (EDF), and a trade regime based on reciprocal preferences.
The Kennedy Round
As mentioned, the EEC treaty established that the EEC should represent its members in external trade matters. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations were clearly part of this category. The Kennedy Round (1964-67) marked the first round of negotiations in which the six member states were represented by the EEC.
During the GATT meetings held in Geneva, the EEC could negotiate from a position of strength. It had signed a number of important commercial agreements with Greece (1961), Turkey (1963), Israel (1964), Lebanon (1965), and the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency countries (1963) and was about to further expand its commercial relations to the Mediterranean, central Asia, and Africa. In ten years EEC exports had soared by 265 percent within the free trade area and by 113 percent with third countries. In 1962, under President John F. Kennedy, the United States had passed the Trade Expansion Act, allowing the United States to bargain for lower tariffs on whole families of products instead of negotiating item by item. Yet two years later the United States had to accept the principle of "unequal cuts," consisting in a cut of tariffs by 50 percent for the United Kingdom and the United States and a cut by 25 percent for the EEC countries. The Kennedy Round was thus an important first test for the EEC and its foreign policy and an important step forward for the Europeans as they sought to reduce the commercial gap with the United States.
Soon afterward, in 1968 and ahead of schedule, the EEC's customs union for goods became a reality with the removal of tariffs and quotas among the Six. With internal tariffs eliminated, the Common External Tariff (CET), also known as the Common Customs Tariff (CCT), was introduced for goods coming from third countries.
The United Kingdom-France Problem
In 1961, the English conservative government led by Harold Macmillan introduced a request to join the EEC. Negotiations thus began with the UK, alongside Ireland, Denmark, and Norway. The conditions set down by the English were uncompromising. To make matters worse, at least from the point of view of de Gaulle, on July 4, 1962, President Kennedy launched his Grand Design, an idea aimed at enhancing the cooperation of an enlarged European Community with the United States. The situation further deteriorated when, on December 18, 1962, at Nassau, Kennedy offered Polaris missiles to Great Britain. The same offer was made to France but was rejected. De Gaulle viewed the American proposal as a way for the United States to dominate Europe with respect to nuclear weapons. Moreover, in his eyes, Britain's acceptance of the proposal was a clear indication of the UK's true allegiance.
De Gaulle thus abruptly ended all negotiations with the United Kingdom and offered it an Association Agreement instead, a move that was taken as an insult by the British, as it would have put the United Kingdom on the same level as Greece and Turkey. Finally, on February 21, 1966, de Gaulle announced that France would reassume full sovereignty over the armed forces on its territory and withdraw formally on March 7 from the operative structures of the Atlantic pact (NATO), although not from the Atlantic alliance.
In 1967, Harold Wilson's Labor Party won the elections in Great Britain. Wilson soon announced that the United Kingdom would once again apply for EEC membership on May 2, 1967. De Gaulle again vetoed the accession on November 27, 1967. After having lost a referendum on the reform of the Senate and of the French regional framework on April 27, 1969, de Gaulle resigned and Georges Pompidou was elected president of France on June 15.
The Origins of the Pact on European Political Cooperation
In a press conference on July 10, 1969, Pompidou presented his ideas for the future of Europe in what is commonly known as Pompidou's Triptique. The summit in The Hague took place on December 1-2, 1969, and approved these ideas. They consisted of three principles: completion, deepening, and enlargement. More specifically, the Triptique called for the completion of the Common Market by January 1, 1970, with particular attention to the financing of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) through the resources of the Community; the deepening of the Community, especially in the field of economic and monetary policy; and enlargement to include Great Britain and other countries, with the condition that the Community would adopt a common position before negotiations. The Hague Summit Declaration mentioned the establishment of the Common Market as "the way for a united Europe capable of assuming its responsibilities in the world."
With respect to deepening, Etienne Davignon, then political director of the Belgian Foreign Ministry, was charged with studying potential future steps down the path of European integration. The Davignon Report, adopted by the foreign ministers on October 27, 1970, in Luxembourg, was especially important with regard to policymaking and European foreign policy. It established the principle of regular meetings among the EEC foreign ministers, eventual meetings of the heads of state and government, regular consultations on matters of foreign policy among member states, and regular meetings of the political directors of the Six. What emerged from the report was the so-called European Political Cooperation (EPC), which institutionalized the principle of consultation on all major questions of foreign policy. The member states would be free to propose any subject for political consultation. The European Commission would be consulted if the activities of the European Community were affected by the work of the foreign ministers, and the ministers and the members of the Political Affairs Committee of the European Parliament would hold meetings every six months.
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