One of the German Presidency's key tasks is to coordinate action taken under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) with the other 26 EU member states.
The EU is increasingly perceived as a global player. Many foreign-policy issues can only be resolved through close collaboration among EU member states. For that reason, foreign-policy issues are being discussed to an ever greater extent within the framework of the CFSP in Brussels. The EU wants to make its contribution towards maintaining international peace through the Common Foreign and Security Policy. It promotes international security and champions democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
The 27 member states work on an intergovernmental basis and establish common positions within the CFSP (the EU's "second pillar").
Since the Maastricht Treaty came into force on 1 November 1993, the EU as an institution can act on the international stage within the framework of the CFSP and state its position on armed conflicts, human rights issues or other issues related to the basic principles and shared values that underpin the EU, and which it is committed to defend.
Since the European Council on 12 and 13 December 2003 adopted the European Security Strategy (EUSS), the EU's scope for action and its strategic guidelines within the CFSP have been clearly defined. The EUSS is the frame of reference for any action taken by EU member states within the context of the CFSP.
In order to increase the efficiency and external impact of the EU's foreign policy, the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) created the post of High Representative for the CFSP. Javier Solana has held this post since 18 October 1999. In the Brussels institutions, the High Representative, as well as the representatives of the 27 EU member states, also devise short and medium-term reactions to crisis situations.
The provisions on the CFSP were most recently amended by the Treaty of Nice, which came into force on 1 February 2003. The most important change is the increase in the number of areas in which majority voting is possible. The Political and Security Committee (PSC) was also set up. It usually meets twice a week to make decisions on CFSP issues and monitor the conduct of operations under the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).
The Foreign Ministers of the EU member states meet regularly (usually once per month) in the General Affairs and External Relations Council, which establishes EU policy on key foreign-policy issues.
The CFSP has three instruments, which are used regularly:
Common Strategies usually cover a period of four years; three have been adopted to date: Russia in June 1999, Ukraine in December 1999 and the Mediterranean in June 2000.
The conclusions of the meetings of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, which are devised, agreed upon and finalized in intensive consultations among the member states, are a key political instrument. The possibility to issue statements on behalf of the EU and to make representations to governments in non-member countries is also politically significant.
The EU special representatives (EUSRs) are another important CFSP instrument. At present, there are EUSRs for Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Middle East peace process, the Great Lakes, the Sudan, the Southern Caucasus, Central Asia and Moldova.
Geographical priorities for the CFSP are currently the Western Balkans, the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as the conflict zones of Africa. Priority issues are the fight against terrorism, non-proliferation, conflict prevention, human rights and reinforcement of effective multilateralism.
The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) is an essential part of the CFSP.