Review of Scrutiny: Common Foreign and
Security Policy |
CHAPTER 1: Introduction
1. In the United Kingdom, foreign policy is essentially
an executive, not a legislative, process. Parliament's role is
therefore to hold the Government to account for policy decisions.
In order to be effective Parliament should be involved in this
process at the earliest opportunity, examining proposals for action
as well as the consequences of those actions. This is as true
of European foreign policy as it is of the United Kingdom Government's
own decisions. This Report accordingly examines how Parliament
can best hold the Government to account for the foreign policy
of the European Union (EU).
2. The foreign policy of the European Union is
known as the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). CFSP was
created by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and given a separate legal
base to that of the European Community policies. Existing under
Pillar II of the Treaties, it has its own legal instruments and
does not form part of EC law. It is, broadly speaking, an intergovernmental
policy. As a result,
the European Parliament's role in CFSP is principally advisory.
National Parliaments therefore have a pivotal role to play in
holding their own executives to account for the EU's foreign policy.
3. Holding the Government accountable to Parliament
for the formulation of CFSP has presented several difficulties
for the House. The first relates to the process by which Government
departments must deposit documents and legislative proposals for
Parliamentary scrutiny. Chapter Two of this Report explains these
processes, and the changes we, and the Government, have instituted
in the past 18 months to make scrutiny of CFSP more effective.
4. The second is the manner in which CFSP legislative
proposals are brought forward within the EU for agreement by Council.
Falling within Pillar II, the usual procedures which apply to
agreeing proposals for EC law and their scrutiny are not followed.
This leads to reduced timescales for decision-making as well as
less opportunity for Parliamentary input. We examine these problems
in depth in Chapter Three.
5. The final difficulty in relation to Parliamentary
scrutiny of CFSP arises from the current scrutiny practice which
is based on proposals for legally binding decisions. This has
proved to be insufficient since CFSP is to a large extent formulated
by the Council through policy initiatives. Chapter Four examines
ways of extending the scrutiny of the EU's foreign policy to include
6. This Report only deals with issues arising
out of the scrutiny of CFSP, which primarily falls under the responsibility
of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In general we understand
CFSP to include the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is responsible for particular defence-related
policies (especially those with operational implications). We
therefore make reference to both Government departments but note,
where relevant, differences in their practices. Certain recommendations
are therefore addressed specifically to the MoD.
7. We make this report to the House for information.
8. We are grateful to the Minister for Europe,
Mr Douglas Alexander, Dr Sarah Beaver, Director General, International
Security Policy for the Ministry for Defence, and Mr Jimmy Hood
MP, Chairman of the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee,
for their evidence on this inquiry.
1 Since the early 1970s Member States coordinated foreign
policy under the name of European Political Cooperation. The change
of name to CFSP was accompanied by the new policy instruments
provided for in Pillar II. Back
The European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) is
consulted on the main aspects and basic choices of the CFSP and
may ask questions of the Council of Ministers and make recommendations
to it. (Art 21, TEU). Also, since most administrative and operational
CFSP expenditure is charged to the EU budget, the European Parliament
has an opportunity to raise foreign policy issues during budgetary