EU Foreign Policy

The European Union's external policies - overseen by the European External Action Service (EEAS) - have four key aims: to support stability, promote human rights and democracy, spread prosperity and to support the enforcement of the rule of law and good governance. The instruments available to the EU's foreign policy range from bilateral agreements to guidelines and legislation.

The EU has bilateral relations with countries in all regions and continents of the world. A network of 139 EU Delegations represents the European Union vis-à-vis the authorities and the population of the respective host countries.


The European External Action Service

The Lisbon Treaty provided for the establishment of the European External Action Service to support the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The European External Action Service reports to the High Representative. The EEAS brings together the structures of the European Commission and the General Secretariat of the Council for external relations and the CFSP. The EEAS also includes the more than 130 long-established delegations of the European Community, now Delegations of the Union, in third countries and at international organisations.

The EEAS cooperates closely with the national diplomatic missions of the EU member states and supports the Commission, the European Parliament and the President of the European Council. The European External Action Service draws its staff from the offices of the European Commission and the Secretariat of the Council that had been in charge of foreign relations before the EAAS was established, and from the diplomatic missions of the member states; diplomatic mission staff latter return to the diplomatic service of their home countries after their temporary employment with the EEAS.


EU Foreign Policy (CFSP)

An important responsibility of the Austrian Foreign and European Policy is to contribute to and to implement the so-called Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). It is the political pillar of the external action of the EU. The EU accession process (preceding the entry of new Member States into the EU) , the European Neighbourhood policy, External Trade, Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid are also part of EU foreign policy.

Within the framework of CFSP, the EU Member States cooperate on an intergovernmental basis, i.e. they agree on common positions by unanimity. Since the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty on 1 November 1993, the EU as such may act on the international stage and elaborate the EU position on armed conflicts, human rights issues or other matters in coherence with EU basic principles and common values which it is obliged to uphold.

To achieve greater efficiency and visibility of EU foreign policy, it was decided upon the creation of the position of High Representative for CFSP in the Amsterdam Treaty. This position was filled by Javier Solana between 18 October 1999 and 1 December 2009. The CFSP provisions were revised in the Treaty of Nice which entered into force on 1 February 2003. The Treaty of Nice extended the number of areas within CFSP where  decisions by majority are possible. In addition, the Political and Security Committee was created. It normally meets twice per week to make decisions on CFSP issues and to monitor the implementation of operations and missions within the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

The Treaty of Lisbon (in force since 1 December 2009) brought significant reforms to CFSP structures (cf. Title V, Articles 21-46 of the Treaty on European Union). It introduced the European External Action Service (EEAS) as a new European Union institution which is headed by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In order to ensure a maximum of coherence in the European Union’s external action the High Representative is also Commissioner for External Action and Vice-President of the Commission, coordinating the CFSP and external relations of the Commission. Since November 2009, Baroness Catherine Ashton  holds the position of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Her term of office will expire in October 2014.

The High Representative chairs the Foreign Affairs Council which is comprised of the foreign ministers of the EU Member States and which normally meets at least once per month. The Council is the central decision-making body for CFSP and CSDP. 

There are several CFSP instruments which are regularly applied:

As the member states’ supreme decision-making body, the European Council also determines strategic objectives and general guidelines for CFSP (cf. Article 26 of the Treaty on European Union). The European Council’s decisions are not legally, but “politically” binding the EU Member States. Implementation is the responsibility of the Foreign Affairs Council.

The Foreign Affairs Council adopts legal acts in the form of Decisions of the Council, which establish actions to be undertaken by the EU (e.g. CSDP operations and missions) as well as positions to be adopted by the EU (e.g. imposing restrictive measures on a particular country). (cf. Article 25 of the Treaty on European Union)

In pursuit of its political objectives, the EU makes use of restrictive measures (sanctions), which the Council imposes principally on representatives of Third States’ governments but also on state enterprises and other legal and natural persons. A distinction is drawn here between sanctions which the EU adopts “autonomously” and those which it is obliged to adopt on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution.

The conclusions on CFSP of meetings of the Foreign Affairs Councils and the European Council, finalised following intensive consultations of EU Member States and EEAS, are a key political instrument.

Also of political importance is the possibility of making EU statements and undertaking demarches to government representatives in non-member countries. 

Political dialogue with non-member states (and groups of states or organizations) has developed into an important and frequently used instrument. The institutional framework for political dialogue is established in agreements (e.g. association, partnership or cooperation agreements), joint declarations or exchanges of letters. At the Heads of State and Government level, the EU is represented by the President of the European Council; at foreign ministers level, the High Representative takes on that role.

Another CFSP instrument are EU Special Representatives (EUSR).There are, currently, for instance, EUSRs for Human Rights, Bosnia and Herzegovina or the African Union. 


European Neighbourhood Policy

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was developed to promote prosperity, security, stability as well as rule-of-law and democratic structures in the countries bordering on the enlarged EU.

It is geared towards the EU’s immediate neighbours both to the east (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) and the south (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Tunisia).

The aim is to help partner countries foster stability, modernization and democratic reform in particular as well as to promote dialogue with civil society. To this end, the EU is providing financial backing and encouraging greater economic integration, closer political and cultural relations, as well as deeper sectoral cooperation with and among partner countries.

The more progress a country makes on reform, the more support it will receive (more for more). If a country fails to make any progress, the EU will review its support.

In concrete terms, the ENP is implemented first and foremost via Action Plans for individual ENP partners which are agreed between the EU and the relevant partner country. The Commission takes stock of what headway has been made in annual progress reports. The legal prerequisite for such a Plan is the existence of valid partnership and cooperation or association agreements with the EU.

To help realize the original ENP, in 2007 the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) was created with a budget of some 11 billion euros for the period 2007‑2013. ENPI was replaced in 2013 by the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), for the period 2014-2020 more than 15 billion euros will be available for ENI.

The southern Neighbourhood

In 2011, in the wake of the Arab Spring, the European Union realigned its Neighbourhood Policy towards its Southern Neighbours as "Partnership with the Southern Mediterranean for Democracy and Shared Prosperity" focused on supporting the political transition as well as promotion of the economic development of the southern partner countries. It combines the EU programs to implement democratic reform, institution-building in areas such as judicial reform, the fight against corruption and the promotion of civil society reinforced by measures to strengthen economic cooperation, especially in the form of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTA) and Mobility Partnerships. During the year 2014, these DCFTA negotiations continued with Morocco, and were prepared with Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia.

Considering the outstanding history of the Arab Spring, Austria advocates increased EU engagement in the southern Mediterranean. However, the EU support measures must be effective, and these funds need to be used efficiently and to yield  justifiable results.

Austria is also a member of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and participates in the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF) that linkes local NGOs in the framework of the UfM. The UfM membership encompasses 43 countries, namely all EU members, the southern Mediterranean countries, as well as Jordan and Mauritania.
The aim of this Euro-Mediterranean partnership is to promote integration and democratic reforms through concrete projects that strengthen regional and sub-regional cooperation. The concrete project work is coordinated by the General Secretariat in Barcelona. The activities of the UfM are financed by voluntary contributions from Member States and from the EU's ENI budget.

Austria sees the Union for the Mediterranean as a useful multilateral forum to enhance regional cooperation in the Mediterranean region that complements the bilateral cooperation approach of the ENP with the Southern neighbours.
Since March 2012, the European Union through the European External Action Service is co-chairing the UfM together with a member country from the South. This guarantees the complementarity of the UfM with the cooperation programs of the European Neighbourhood Policy and thus enhances the effectiveness of EU assistance to the countries of the southern Mediterranean. The UfM is also an important platform for dialogue where 43 countries from Europe and the entire Mediterranean basin, including Israeli and Palestinian representatives, meet regularly at working level. Conferences of ministers on specific topics are also held twice a semester. Within the Parliamentary Assembly of the UfM, a summit of the presidents and Speakers of the Parliaments of all member states was held in April 2013 in Marseilles that was also attended by the president of the Austrian Parliament, Ms. Barbara Prammer.

The Anna Lindh Foundation with its secretariat based in Alexandria promotes the exchange between institutions working in the cultural sector and civil society. The Mediterranean Forum of the Anna Lindh Foundation in Marseille in April 2013 was attended by over 1550 representatives of NGOs from 52 countries. The national ALF Network for Austria is managed by the Austrian Institute for International Affairs.

Eastern Partnership

In 2009 the EU and its Eastern neighbours Ukraine, Moldova, Geogia, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan established an Eastern Partnership as a regional component of the ENP  (Prague 7th of May 2009) with a view to promoting political association and economic integration with these eastern neighbours.

The Eastern Partnership is the most ambitious offer of cooperation under the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy. It is based in the first instance on the conclusion of comprehensive association agreements with the EU, DCFTAs (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements) forming part of them. These association agreements will replace the existing and in some respects outdated partnership and cooperation agreements with the partner countries and place their relations with the EU on a new footing.

The agreements with Georgia and Moldova were initialled at the Summit in Vilnius (28 to 29 November 2013) and signed on 27th  of June 2014.  The political parts of the association agreement with Ukraine were signed on 21st of March 2014 and the other parts on 27th of June 2014.

The Eastern Partnership promotes the reform course these countries have embarked on and offers EU support that gives additional impetus to their political, economic and societal transformation.

A long term goal of the Eastern Partnership is also visa liberalisation.