The common foreign and security policy (CFSP) was established and is governed by Title V of the Treaty on European Union (EU). It replaced European Political Cooperation (EPC) and provides for the eventual framing of a common defence policy which might in time lead to a common defence.
The objectives of this second pillar of the Union are set out in Article 11 of the EU Treaty and are to be attained through specific legal instruments (joint action, common position) which have to be adopted unanimously in the Council. With the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam (1999), the European Union also has a new instrument at its disposal – the common strategy. The Treaty of Amsterdam also provided for qualified majority voting under certain conditions and, since it was signed, the CFSP field has been developing in practice at every European Council.
The Treaty of Nice (2001) introduced the possibility, under certain conditions, of establishing closer cooperation in the CFSP field for the implementation of joint actions and common positions. This closer cooperation may not be used for matters with military or defence implications.
The European Constitution, currently in the process of ratification, provides for the creation of the post of Foreign Affairs Minister whose role will consist in conducting the CFSP. The Minister will be assisted by a newly-created European External Action Service. The Constitution also provides for the transfer of the power of initiative in this area from the Commission to the new Minister. Unanimity will remain the rule but the bridging mechanism may be used to switch to qualified majority voting in certain areas which have no military or defence implications.
Once the Constitution has been ratified, the use of the legislative instruments under the CFSP will be excluded. The instruments of the CFSP will be restricted to European decisions and international agreements.
Enhanced cooperation may also be introduced in any area of the CFSP and no longer only for the implementation of a joint action or a common position. Unanimity will, however, always be required.
Source: Treaties Office Database