EU Constitution Factsheet: External Action
Union, European, Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly
In the European Constitution, the provisions on the external action of the European Union (EU) have been substantially rewritten, making significant amendments and introducing new provisions to enhance the current set-up and strengthen the effectiveness and visibility of the Union's action in the international arena.
The Union is accorded international legal personality (Article I- 7), taking over the rights and obligations of the European Community and the Union in their current form. The discarding of the pillar structure in the field of foreign policy is one of the linchpins of the Constitutional Treaty. The provisions relating to the external action of the Union are grouped together under a single title covering all aspects of that action:
the common foreign and security policy (CFSP);
the common security and defence policy;
the common commercial policy;
development cooperation policy;
economic, financial and technical cooperation with third countries;
relations with international organizations;
and implementation of the solidarity clause.
At the institutional level, the Constitution introduces two important innovations. First, it creates the post of Minister for Foreign Affairs . The incumbent will conduct and implement the CFSP on behalf of the European Council and be one of the Vice-Presidents of the European Commission . In the latter capacity, he or she will be responsible for handling external relations and for coordinating other aspects of the Union's external action. Secondly, the Constitution provides for the creation of a President of the European Council who shall, amongst other things, ensure at his or her level the external representation of the Union on issues concerning the CFSP, without prejudice to the responsibilities of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Article III-292 of the Constitutional Treaty lays down the detailed objectives of the Union's external action. In the pursuit of these objectives, the Council of Ministers and the Commission, assisted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, will ensure consistency between the different areas of its external action and between these and its other policies. This factsheet covers the main amendments made by the Constitutional Treaty in the field of Union external action. Amendments to the common foreign and security policy and defence policy are covered in two separate factsheets.
THE COMMON COMMERCIAL POLICY
Article I-13 of the Constitution clearly accords the Union exclusive competence for the common commercial policy. The common commercial policy is extended to foreign direct investment (Article III-315). However, agreements in the field of transport remain outside the scope of the common commercial policy. The Constitution provides for the common commercial policy to be implemented through European laws.
In terms of decision-making, the provisions of the current Article 133 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty) are simplified. However, qualified majority voting is not extended to all aspects of the common commercial policy. In fact, the Constitution retains the principle of parallelism between internal and external rules established at Nice. According to this principle, decisions relating to the negotiation and conclusion of agreements in the areas of trade in services, commercial aspects of intellectual property and direct foreign investment are subject to unanimity when these agreements contain provisions for which unanimity is required for the adoption of internal rules. The Constitution also provides for unanimity for agreements in the field of trade in cultural and audiovisual services, where there is a risk that they could prejudice the Union's cultural and linguistic diversity. …