EU Foreign Policy enters post-Lisbon Treaty era, terra incognita
By Michael Emerson
Following the final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty the EU has moved swiftly to implement its institutional provisions with appointment on 18 November of Belgian Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy, as President of the European Council, and with Baroness Catherine Ashton (UK, responsible in the European Commission for trade policy in 2009) nominated to the double position of High Representative of the Council for foreign and security policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.
On 27 November President Barroso of the European Commission followed through with appointment of the entire college of 27 Commissioners and assignment of their responsibilities. Of relevance to foreign policy were the following appointments:
- Baroness Ashton becomes First Vice-President of the Commission, which is the first time there has been a First V-P, and signals her primus inter pares in relation to other Commissioners having responsibilities in the broad foreign policy domain. These include:
- Stefan Füle, Czech Minister for European Affairs, who becomes Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy;
- Karel de Gucht, former Belgian foreign minister, who becomes Commissioner for Trade;
- Andris Piebags, Latvian, outgoing Commissioner for energy, who becomes Commissioner for Development;
- Rumiana Jeleva, Bulgarian, who becomes Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
These are only the Commissioners whose mandates explicitly relate to external affairs. However there are several other portfolios that have significant external relations content. These include:
- Connie Hedegaard, Danish, Commissioner for Climate Action;
- Olli Rehn, Finnish, Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs;
- Guenther Oettinger, German, Commissioner for Energy;
- Maria Damanaki, Greek, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries;
- Sim Kallas, Estonian, Commissioner for Transport;
- Cecilia Malmstrom, Commissioner for Home Affairs, which includes Schengen and visa policies, and frontier protection.
Together with President Barroso this makes no less than twelve Commissioners with significant interests in external relations.
For the European neighbourhood the appointment of Stefan Füle is of course of special importance. There are both personal and policy aspects to note here. Stefan Füle is 47 years old and studied from 1980 to 1981 at the Charles University in Prague, but then for much longer at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO) from 1982 to 1986. After these studies he became a career diplomat and has been ambassador to Lithuania and the UK. Wikipedia tells us that he was a member of the Czech Communist Party from 1982 to 1989, a point that will no doubt be noted in the forthcoming hearings of the European Parliament, which have to confirm the appointments.
The striking point about his portfolio in the Commission is that it combines enlargement and neighbourhood policies together. European neighbouring states that have expressed membership ambitions (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) will be intrigued by this move. These states should not jump to the conclusion that this organisational step means a political move in the direction of recognising their membership perspectives, which would be a decision that only the member states in the Council could take. Yet it could mean some reinforcement of the modus operandi of the Commission in its management of the neighbourhood policy in the direction of ‘enlargement-lite’. However it seems that the staff organigramme here has still to be worked out. The President of the Commission’s announcement of portfolios and staff structures includes for Stefan Füle both the Enlargement Directorate-General and “the neighbourhood parts of the External Relations Directorate-General”, whereas all the rest of the External Relations DG go to the External Action Service.
This service will be a new semi-institution combining the external relations staff of both Commission and Council under Baroness Ashton. The small print of President Barroso’s decision says that this retention of the neighbourhood policy staff in the Commission is “without prejudice for the creation of the future European External Action Service (EEAS)”.
We are unsure what this means, as between the neighbourhood staff either remaining in the Commission with the Enlargement DG or going into the EEAS, but the first version seems more likely. These are not entirely inconsequential bureaucratic minutae, since the outcome could have some influence on the depth of the integration quality of the neighbourhood policy.
Overall the Lisbon Treaty marks a certain step change, enhancing the EU’s institutional apparatus for foreign and security policy. The merger of parts of the Council and Commission under the double-hatted High Representative/First Vice President of the Commission is going to take the whole of 2010 to sort out, and the operational consequences will take years to take shape. One might even say decades since there are surely going to be no more Treaty changes for a long time, given the political pain and stresses of ratifying Lisbon. The development of the content of EU foreign policy is surely going to get a new impulse, but the political nature of this development remains unknown. In principle the EU aims to become a values-driven foreign policy actor, seeking to reinforce the mechanisms of international law, multilateralism and rule-based foreign policy, but the global context is a world of newly emerging major powers, some of whom have quite different ideas. There now loom up big open questions over the nature of this new world, whether it is going to become at best an ordered and stable world regime, or at worst a dangerously unstable multi-polarity. The EU’s emerging foreign policy is going to have to play into this new global terra incognita.CEPS European Neighbourhood Watch