The EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) provides a formal structure that allows Member States to coordinate consistent policies and assert the EU’s inherent political identity.
CFSP is designed to safeguard the values, interests, independence, and integrity of the Union; to strengthen the Union’s security; to preserve peace and strengthen international security; to promote international cooperation; to develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Because foreign and security policy is one area where essential authority remains with the governments of the EU Member States, CFSP decision-making procedures are intergovernmental. However, all of the EU’s major institutions play a role.
The European Council, consisting of heads of state and/or government, is responsible for foreign policy, defining policy principles and general guidelines, agreeing on common strategies for activities with individual countries, and adopting joint actions and common positions within the CFSP framework. The President of the European Council ensures the external representation of the EU in the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy at the level of heads of state and government.
The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also serves as the president of the Foreign Affairs Council—made up of the foreign ministers of the Member States—and is a vice-president of the European Commission. As such, the High Representative ensures effective interinstitutional coordination leading to the implementation of coherent external policies. The High Representative is supported by the European External Action Service (EEAS), made up of staff recruited from the diplomatic corps of EU Member States, the Council Secretariat, and the European Commission.
The European Parliament is consulted regularly, although it has no direct powers in this realm.
Member States not willing to participate in a particular foreign policy or security action may opt out without holding back the rest of the Union through a process called “constructive abstention.”
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