European Foreign Policy: The Impact of Enlargement: Stephen Hoadley Suggests That Earlier Negative Predictions about the Likely Effect of Enlarging the European Union on European Foreign Policy Have Not Been Borne Out

By Hoadley, Stephen | New Zealand International Review, September-October 2005 | Go to article overview

European Foreign Policy: The Impact of Enlargement: Stephen Hoadley Suggests That Earlier Negative Predictions about the Likely Effect of Enlarging the European Union on European Foreign Policy Have Not Been Borne Out


Hoadley, Stephen, New Zealand International Review


The European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy (known widely by its initials 'CFSP') is relatively new. It was proclaimed as recently as 1992, in the Treaty of European Union (or Maastricht Treaty). It was amplified in the Amsterdam Treaty signed in 1997, the Treaty of Nice signed 2001, and the Constitutional Treaty signed in 2004. In the decade of its existence, the CFSP has been further elaborated in a number of EU directives and regulations, and manifested in a variety of common strategies, positions, delegations, and actions by members. Meanwhile the European Union has grown in membership to 25, with a half-dozen more countries aspiring to join. And the French and Dutch 'no' votes on the Constitutional Treaty have stalled institutional reforms in the CFSP. Is a common foreign and security policy within reach of such a diverse Union?

The idea of a Europe speaking with one voice in world affairs has deep historical roots, some say springing from Immanuel Kant's 18th century vision of a Perpetual Peace. Since the Second World War, and because of that war, the ideal of European states working together for peace and prosperity rather than perpetuating aggression and devastation has motivated statesmen from France, Germany, Britain, and even the United States.

But the Cold War divided Europe East from West, and far-flung commitments, notably by Britain and France but also Netherlands, Belgium, and Portugal, diverted leaders' energies into shoring up empires or defending national prerogatives. Granted, the Europeans co-operated in collective defence against the Soviet threat through the Brussels Treaty and the North Atlantic Treaty in the 1940s. But the visionary European Defence Community sank on the rocks of Gaullism in the 1950s, and in the 1960s the NATO HQ was expelled from Paris. Other governments, notably Britain and Germany, linked their security to the United States rather than 'Europe'.

Economic co-operation

Nevertheless European co-operation in economic and social affairs progressed in the following decades. In the 1950s coal and steel and atomic energy production were co-ordinated and later common trade protectionism and agricultural subsidies were initiated. They succeeded by a process known as 'functionalism', that is a series of pragmatic incremental changes adopted by governments to provide material benefits to all members. Another process, 'spill-over', induced growing European co-operation in social, cultural, and legal spheres, partly to support economic co-operation and partly to increase consistency and reduce cross-boundary transaction costs in related policy sectors. Political vision was subordinated to practicality.

Foreign and defence policy remained outside the deepening network except as harmonised by NATO participation. France regarded neither NATO nor Great Britain as truly 'European' and some European countries remained neutral or less than wholeheartedly committed to the American-led collective defence effort. Each member state pursued its own foreign and defence policy unilaterally, although in practice considerable convergence with European neighbours, bilaterally or through United Nations or NATO channels, was achieved by voluntary consultation and adaptation.

Evolving policy

In the 1970s proponents of a more proactive Europe smuggled the idea of a common foreign and defence policy into a blandly labelled initiative called European Political Co-operation. (1) EPC evolved gradually and was adopted formally by member governments in the Single European Act of 1987. For two decades it legitimised a number of joint European declarations and, more concretely, the use of economic aid and sanctions and observer missions to promote better human rights and provide disaster relief. The outcome was often more rhetorical than muscular, but the process was successful in inculcating in leaders and officials the habit of European foreign and security policy harmonisation, if not co-ordination.

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European Foreign Policy: The Impact of Enlargement: Stephen Hoadley Suggests That Earlier Negative Predictions about the Likely Effect of Enlarging the European Union on European Foreign Policy Have Not Been Borne Out
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