Common Strategies Report
prepared by the Secretary General of the
Council High Representative for the CFSPDr Javier Solana
1. The General Affairs Council of 9 October 2000
drew conclusions on the effectiveness of the Union's external
action. On Common Strategies, the Council noted "the importance
of common strategies for the co-ordination, coherence and effectiveness
of external action. It calls on the Secretary-General/High Representative
to submit, for the first policy debate in January or February
2001, an evaluation report on the operation of the common strategies
already adopted and on ways of making optimum use of this instrument
in the future."
2. This internal evaluation report which it is intended
should remain confidential, is in three parts: The first recalls
the instrument of Common Strategies, the second deals with "lessons
learned", and the last section draws conclusions and makes
recommendations on improving the effectiveness of Common Strategies.
The report also takes into account internal reflections by the
3. The Common Strategies adopted so far have not
yet contributed to a stronger and more effective EU in international
affairs. At the same time, they have contributed to putting together
all EU objectives and means in the areas covered in a comprehensive,
cross-pillar approach. We should now draw the lessons from the
shortcomings of our present Common Strategies and take the steps
necessary to improve both the development and the implementation
of Common Strategies in the future. Otherwise we will widen even
further the gap between their poor effectiveness on the one hand
and on the other hand the high expectations they raise.
II The Instrument of Common Strategies
4. The Treaty of Amsterdam introduced into the Treaty
on European Union the instrument of common strategies. The idea
behind them was to create an instrument setting the global vision
of the Union within the area of external relations in the medium
or long run towards a specific area or theme and, in the CFSP
(second pillar) to provide for decision-making by QMV in implementing
decisions, notably in the adoption of common positions and joint
5. Accordingly, Article 13, paragraph 2, provides
that the European Council shall decide on common strategies to
be implemented by the Union in areas where Member States have
important interests in common. While common strategies must be
compatible with the principles and general guidelines for the
common foreign and security policy, the TEU offers the European
Council great flexibility as to their content. The Treaty prescribes,
however, that they should set out three constituent elements,
namely their objectives, duration and the means to be made available
by the Union and the Member States. This gives common strategies
an operational nature, going well beyond declarations of policy.
6. As far as the means are concerned common strategies
can cover the possibilities open to the Union, including those
under the EC Treaty. In the latter case, the instruments covered
by the EC Treaty must be adopted in accordance with the procedures
provided for by that Treaty. As far as CFSP measures (title V
TEU) are concerned, since a common strategy provides automatically
for adoption by qualified majority of any implementing act there
is no need for the common strategy itself to provide for a legal
base for implementation on CFSP.
7. The common strategies adopted by the Council so
far have been published in the Official Journal. This is however
not mandatory either under the Treaty provisions or under the
rules of procedure of the Council. Each time the Council adopts
a common strategy, therefore, it can decide whether to publish
it. A decision on publication must be adopted by unanimity (Article
17 (3) of the rules of procedure of the Council).
III Lessons Learned
SCOPE OF COMMON STRATEGIES
8. The EU wanted to use the first common strategies
to focus on relations with the geographical areas surrounding
the Union (Russia, Ukraine, Balkans, Mediterranean), not least
in order to underline the importance it attaches to relations
with all its immediate neighbours. These were, however, areas
for which broad-based policies and established mechanisms or co-operation
already existed or were being developed (PCAs with Russia and
Ukraine, Barcelona Process, Stabilisation and Association Process,
Stability Pact), putting in question the added value of CS in
areas where policies were already so well established. The choice
of such complex, high-profile and well trodden areas put the instrument
of the common strategy to a very public test, the risk of which
might have been reduced by choosing less ambitious and less well-worn
themes. One of the tests is whether the Union has been able to
use CS to implement policies on issues which really matter. In
the case of Russia for example, the CS is comprehensive in scope,
and yet it has not proved useful in helping the Union to address
the important specific issue of Chechnya. These considerations
have led to the implicit dropping of the Balkan CS, but they raise
the question: what next?
9. The European Council at Vienna, which set in motion
work on the first four CS, also foresaw future CS on thematic
issues. Although none has so far been decided, considerations
similar to those above could apply to thematic subjects.
METHODS USED TO DRAW UP EXISTING CS
10. The European Council gave very little by way
of guidelines, so successive Presidencies have had to develop
their own approaches, which were subject to long and detailed
negotiating processes in working groups and special committees,
using traditional bottom-up working methods. Orientation discussions
at Council, Coreper and POCO level did little to change this,
but confirmed the wide range of views. The wide scope of the CS
and the particular, sometimes detailed concerns of individual
Member States resulted in a "Christmas tree" approach
based on the "lowest common denominator" where Member
States and the Commission insisted on covering all possible aspects
of relations, including so many different issues in the CS that
in the end it became difficult to distinguish priorities from
questions of secondary importance.
11. The question of non-publication in whole or in
part so that CS could be real and unvarnished internal policy
documents was decided early on in favour of full publication.
This has made them smooth, declaratory texts, well-suited for
public diplomacy purposes. But they are less useful as internal
working tools balancing pros and cons, reconciling different objectives
and generally prioritising EU action. They cannot in particular
address sensitive questions such as EU interests and goals not
suited for publication, areas of disagreement with external partners
or difficulties/contradictions in the EU's approach.
12. The fact that the CS are public documents has
reinforced their nature of "fair-weather" instruments,
making it difficult to handle them in times of crisis or to develop
them in light of new developments. This could be seen for example
when the Union reviewed its relations with Russia at the height
of the Chechnya crisis.
IMPACT OF CS ON RELATIONS WITH THE COUNTRIES INVOLVED
13. The CS succeeded in emphasising the importance
the Union attaches to its relations with the specific countries
involved (a fact clearly appreciated by them), notably by developing
the concept of "strategic partnerships" with Russia
and the Ukraine. But as far as substance was concerned the CS
did not cover new ground and instead tended to become inventories
of existing policies. At the same time, once Russia and the Ukraine
knew that the EU was working on a CS with them they tried actively
to influence their content.
14. In Russia and the Ukraine the drawing up of the
CS first led to uncertainty about the relationship of the new
instruments with the existing comprehensive Partnership and Co-operation
Agreements. This was followed by efforts to water down the central
role of the existing contractual arrangements by trying to give
the CS a "quasi-contractual" connotation and by stressing
a hierarchical order putting CS above the PCAs.
15. In the case of Russia, the publication of the
CS prompted our partner country to formulate and publish its own
strategy towards the EU; the Russians then wanted to engage the
EU in negotiations on areas of both agreement and disagreement
between the two strategies, which actually distracted from the
bilateral relationship and tended to relativise the CS itself.
16. Regarding the Mediterranean region, the perceived
lack of added value of the CS compared with the already comprehensive
Barcelona Process and the difficulties in defining the relationship
between the CS and the EU's role in the Middle East Peace Process
have put the consistency of the EU's approach towards the region
into question. The unspoken competition between the CS and the
ongoing effort to draw up a "Charter for Peace and Stability"
in the Barcelona framework has added to this confusion.
CS AS BASIS FOR QMV
17. So far, CS have not been used as basis for QMV
decisions in CFSP. In fact the Pillar 2 content of CS devoted
to a comprehensive review of the whole of the EU's relations with
a country or region has, at least so far, been close to minimal,
so the question of QMV has not arisenwith one exception
in the drafting of the Mediterranean CS. Agreement was finally
reached on excluding the MEPP as such from that CS, but the discussion
pointed to a possible future difficulty: the broader the nature,
the more Member States may be reluctant to commit themselves to
CS, since they cannot foresee clearly on which decisions QMV might
CS AS CO-ORDINATING INSTRUMENTS
18. The Presidency work-plans mandated by the CS
have in principle helped to make CS implementation more focused
and to improve intra- as well as inter-Presidency co-ordination.
But if the truth be told, these have in practice fallen into the
category of routine exercises to which little attention is paid.
No sense of priority or urgency emerges from them at the political
19. The instrument of CS should be well adapted to
improve co-ordination and synergy between CFSP, Community action
and Member States' activities. Experience has shown that already
the first step towards this goal, the compilation of inventories
of what is done bilaterally in the field of CS, will not be achieved
in the short run, notably given the comprehensive scope of the
existing CS. This seems to indicate that the review process in
Member States to bring their national policy actions in line with
CS is at best at an early stage.
20. Little thought has been given to how different
CS should be co-ordinated with each other (there is, for example,
a clear read-across between the CSs on Russia and the Ukraine).
In addition, the possibility of aligning the associated countries
with our CS have not been used.
21. Summing up: The existing Common Strategies tend
to be too broadly defined in scope to be truly effective and to
have added value. They are sometimes so thoroughly negotiated
among the member States that they do not contain real priorities
or posteriorities and have become little more than inventories
of existing policies and activities. Whilst having these comprehensive
statements of policy in a single document no doubt has its uses
as a reference document, the CS has tended increasingly to become
a bureaucratic exercise. The fact that they are written to be
published has resulted in texts that lack the sharpness needed
to make them a truly useful internal strategy. The introduction
by each presidency of a new working plan with new priorities has
so far failed to add to the objective of deploying a consistent
and coherent EU approach and has strengthened the impression of
stop and go policies. Precisely because they are so comprehensive,
Common Strategies lack flexibility: too often they cover a wide
range of issues but do not enable the Union to implement policies
on specific issues that really matter. Last but not least, policy
issues related to CFSP are formulated in such a manner that the
main aim of Common Strategies to introduce QMV in CFSP has not
so far been realised.
HOW TO MAKE A BETTER USE OF THE CS?
22. In order to make the Common Strategies efficient
internal working instruments of the Union, and not only public
declarations of already stated policies, they need a new focus.
Ultimately they can only become a strong and useful EU instrument
if the necessary political will can be generated to turn them
into a real foreign policy asset of the Union. Their value added
could be in concentrating on:
together all EU and Member States policies and resources in a
specific area; and
issues which can then be implemented by using Qualified Majority
23. How to do this? The following criteria are suggested:
Strategies should be internal EU policy documents. An alternative
would be to keep a part of the Common Strategy confidential. This
should not only be applied to new Common Strategies, but also
to the existing Common Strategies when revised.
Strategies should be focused and selective in their scope; political
correctness or the importance of a topic is not enough, as experience
to date shows. They should in the future not aim at a very broad
subject, such as an entire country or region or a wide theme,
but deal with a clearly defined and limited area.
These considerations apply to thematic as to geographical
subjects. Additionally for thematic subjects, it might make sense
to avoid themes which would, in the implementation of a legally
binding instrument, inevitably expose possibly glaring contradictions
in applying well accepted principles where other factors are also
Strategies should have a clear added value which should
be identified before the CS is decided on by the European
Council. This value added could, for example come from a will
to identify areas for subsequent implementing common positions
and joint actions by QMV. This way the drafters would have a clear
mandate for their task.
Strategies should identify verifiable objectives against
which progress in implementation can be measured.
Strategies must enhance coherence by bringing together all means
and resources available to the EU. Member States should act coherently
in non-EU institutions and promote Common Strategy objectives
in the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and possibly the World Bank,
IMF, Paris Club etc. They also should use Common Strategies as
the main framework for their bilateral policies.
24. The following procedural suggestions could help
to the above-mentioned criteria:
the European Council invites the council to prepare a Common Strategy,
it should give clear strategic directions on the priority areas,
scope, means and timeframe. A Common Strategy should not be the
subject of detailed bottom-up approach negotiations among Member
ensure that the above criteria are adhered to, suggestions for
a Common Strategy could be made by the SG/HR after consultations
with the Presidency and the European Commission. This should help
guard against short-termism and avoid stop-and-go policies.
should build their work plans on the previous ones in order to
promote consistency and continuity, at the same time allowing
for flexibility in the light of new challenges. An incoming Presidency
should therefore not necessarily need to propose a largely new
work plan; it could also reconfirm or supplement an existing one.
By narrowing the scope of new Common Strategies as proposed above,
the problem of having diverse workplans will probably tend to
order to improve co-ordination, work plans should also include
the review of CS implementation by both the Union and the Member
25. In order to mobilise fully the added value of
Common Strategies, all instruments, including those of the Community
and of Member States must at all times be used in a coherent way.
Therefore, proper articulation between the CFSP area and the other
"pillars" and adequate cross-pillar coherence is essential,
and indeed obligatory under article 3 TEU. In order to achieve
this without encroaching upon the respective prerogatives and
competences, a practical approach is needed.
European Council should note the Commission's intention to focus
its action on the realisation of the objectives of the Common
Strategies through relevant Community measures and, as necessary,
invite it to act appropriately.
General Affairs Council should retain overall responsibility for
ensuring coherence in the implementation of Common Strategies.
In doing so it should draw on the advice and recommendations of
expert committees such as the EFC, the Article 36 Committee and
the Article 133 Committee.
should be a clearer division than at present within the Common
Strategy between the CFSP-proposals (laying the legal basis for
QMV) and the broad policy orientations in other pillars.
26. In conclusion, Common Strategies will be more
credible if used to develop a limited, specific foreign policy
objective with the priorities and value added identified in advance
and the necessary budgetary and policy means linked directly with