The Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union: A Historical Perspective

7 Colum. J. Eur. L. 41 (2001)

Donato F. Navarrete.

Rosa Maria F. Egea. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Autonomous University of Madrid).

European history has taught us two lessons. The first is that the unification of Europe has not been achieved by armed force despite the various attempts to do so over the last two centuries (e.g., Napoleon, Hitler, etc). The second, which also serves to explain the failure of these attempts, is that the countries of Europe have used every means possible to prevent the emergence of a preeminent power among them which could threaten their security. The corollary of these two ideas is clear: European unification must be achieved through the independence and freedom of its people or be condemned to failure.

After the unparalleled destruction of both life and property that occurred during World War II, peace and prosperity became the new goals for a united Europe. With the decisive support of the United States, a process of political, economic and defense cooperation began in Western Europe. Eventually, mere cooperation evolved into a project of economic integration. Yet, the fields of politics and defense have not moved beyond the cooperation phase. European integration is not, therefore, at the same level of development in all fields.

The CFSP is considered the least developed flank of Community integration and, consequently, one of its weakest points. The aim of this article is to study the evolution of the CFSP from World War II to the present to determine the source of its comparative underdevelopment.

The CFSP refers to a sphere of the Member States foreign policymaking process. It does not include their economic relations (be it commercial, foreign aid, etc.), which fall under the Foreign Economic Policy of the European Communities. These policies should not be confused. They are considered two different fields, due to the content and competencies that each involves. While the CFSP is an area in which the Member States cooperate mutually within the framework of the European Union (without excluding the participation of the Community institutions), Foreign Economic Policy comprises competencies that have passed completely or partially from the Member States to the European Community (where the operability of the Community institutions is absolute).

Within the CFSP, it is possible to distinguish between foreign policy and security policy (including defense policy), although this distinction may be relevant only in certain instances as these two policies constitute in fact the same thing.

Due to the fact that a common political union does not yet exist, relations between the EU Member States in the context of the CFSP are addressed within a framework of cooperation. While this cooperative framework has reached some relevancy with regard to foreign policy it has all but failed to do so in the realm of defense policy, where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has traditionally dominated. Thus, in the Community integration process, the CFSP falls within a context of cooperation. In the terminology of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), this makes the CFSP an intergovernmental pillar.

The historical development of the CFSP has not been linear. Four stages may be distinguished in its evolution. The first, which took place between 1945 and 1949, may be called the “cooperation” stage because cooperation was the common characteristic of all the relationships in Western Europe at the time. The second stage – “frustrated federalism” – covered 1950 to 1954. The third stage, which stretched from 1955 to 1968 and showed almost no advances, will be called “the great vacuum.” Finally, a fourth stage, “reactivation,” began in 1969 and was consolidated with the Single European Act (SEA) and the TEU. Throughout, attempts have been made to surpass the level of simple cooperation in the CFSP. Each has, however, been unsuccessful.