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Finland as an actor in the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) 

Besides natural disasters, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and regional conflicts are considered to be today’s greatest security threats. Photo: Matti RemesBesides natural disasters, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and regional conflicts are considered to be today’s greatest security threats.
Photo: Matti Remes

The key objectives of the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) include safeguarding the Union's common values, preserving peace, consolidating democracy and respect for human rights, as well as strengthening the Union’s internal and external security.

The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), including military crisis management and civilian crisis management, as well as arms control, disarmament and human rights policy are parts of CFSP. Finland participates actively in the implementation and development of CFSP.

CFSP objectives and instruments

The European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is a central part of the Union’s external action, while the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is a part of the CFSP.

Key CFSP objectives include safeguarding the Union's common values, preserving peace, consolidating democracy and respect for human rights, as well as strengthening the Union’s internal and external security. Through CFSP, the Union seeks to strengthen its international profile and influence international politics in line with its objectives.

The EU pursues CFSP by defining its general guidelines, by concluding common decisions, binding on the Member States, and by intensifying cooperation between the Member States on foreign policy issues. Different types of restrictive measures (sanctions) imposed against third countries, and crisis management operations are the most robust CFSP instruments. In addition, the Union uses different diplomatic instruments, such as declarations or presentations or démarches.

The EU is engaged in political dialogue with third parties under the leadership of the High Representative, seeking to strengthen its own international profile and to play a role in international politics in accordance with its objectives. Meetings in the context of the dialogue may result in finding common positions on international issues, exchanging information, strengthening cooperation and confidence, or exercising influence on the conduct of the counterparts in problematic issues.

The Council of the European Union may appoint special representatives with a specific mandate to assist the High Representative. Several special representatives have been appointed to crisis and conflict areas outside the Union to provide hands-on information about the situation and to take an active part in the resolution of the problems.

Finland and CFSP

EU, Foreign Affairs, 18 July 2011, Mr William Hague, (left) UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr Erkki Tuomioja, Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs (Photo: Council of the EU)EU, Foreign Affairs, 18 July 2011, Mr William Hague, (left) UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr Erkki Tuomioja, Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs (Photo: Council of the EU)

The current Government Programme states that Finland’s security, welfare and the keys for its success are founded on comprehensive cooperation with other states and international actors. For Finland, the European Union is a natural political community and its development enhances Finland’s stability, prosperity and security. The EU is also the most important forum where Finland can cooperate and exert influence on global matters. CFSP is the key instrument in this work. Finland takes an active part in both the implementation and development of the CFSP.

In accordance with the Government Programme, Finland supports the strengthening of the EU’s external action through the wide range of instruments available to the Union, including the new European External Action Service (EEAS). In addition, the Government participates actively in the development of the EU’s foreign and security policy strategy. The aim is to strengthen the EU as an international political player, which acts with one voice in international organisations and contractual negotiations. The Union must be an active player especially in its neighbouring areas, in relation to its strategic partners, and in key global issues.

Treaty of Lisbon and CFSP

The Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union was established with the Maastricht Treaty, which entered into force in 1993. Since the late 1990s, CFSP has been one of the most rapidly evolving branches of activity in the EU. The progress has been prompted by events in the Western Balkans in the late 1990s and preparation for new security threats, such as terrorism and piracy in the 21st century.

The Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force in December 2009, aimed to strengthen the EU’s international position. It brought the EU institutions up to date and improved the Union’s working methods. Following the institutional reforms, the Union can function more effectively and coherently in the field of CFSP as well as give a clearer message in its external relations.

In CFSP decision-making, specific rules and procedures are applied also in the Treaty of Lisbon era. The principle of unanimity mainly remains, which means that the Member States’ role is emphasised more than in many other policy areas under the EU’s competence. As far as legislative instruments are concerned, the Lisbon Treaty replaced the former ones, such as common strategies, common positions and joint actions, by decisions taken by the European Council or the Council of the European Union.
The Treaty of Lisbon created the position of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. It also established the European External Action Service (EEAS), which started its work in January 2011.

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Catherine Ashton, Brussels, 25 April 2010 (Photo: Council of the European Union)High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Catherine Ashton, Brussels, 25 April 2010. Photo: Council of the European Union

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, sometimes called the “EU foreign minister”, is responsible for the functions which were formerly exercised by the Commissioner for External Relations and the High Representative for CFSP.

The High Representative conducts the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. She contributes by her proposals to the formulation of CFSP and carries it out mandated by the Council.

The first holder of the five-year post is Catherine Ashton, appointed in November 2009. The European Council, with the agreement of the President of the Commission, appoints the High Representative. The High Representative exercises authority over the Union delegations and the European External Action Service (EEAS).

The Treaty of Lisbon defines that the High Representative

  • presides over the Foreign Affairs Council and is one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission (Article 9e)
  • ensures the consistency and coordination of the Union's external action (Article 9e)
  • ensures implementation of the decisions adopted by the European Council and the Council (Article 13a)
  • represents the Union for matters relating to the CFSP: conducts political dialogue with third parties on the Union's behalf and expresses the Union's position in international organisations and at international conferences. (Article 13a).

European External Action Service

The decision to establish the European External Action Service (EEAS) was made in the Treaty of Lisbon. The EEAS aims to make the EU’s external action more consistent and effective and to form a permanent structure for managing the EU’s external relations.

The Political and Security Committee (COPS/PSC) and the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) are no longer chaired by the rotating six-monthly Presidency but by the EEAS. This is a key change with impacts at the practical level and for the improvement of continuity.

The EEAS is led by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and supports and assists the High Representative in coordinating the Union’s external relations.

The EEAS cooperates with the diplomatic services of the Member States. It consists of a central administration based in Brussels and a network of over 130 EU delegations all over the world.

Finland in CFSP decision-making

The Treaty of Lisbon did not bring any essential changes to the decision-making processes concerning the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. Apart from a few exceptions, decisions are still made based on the principle of unanimity and intergovernmental participation.

The European Council meeting at the level of heads of state and government defines general guidelines for CFSP as well as the EU’s strategic interests and goals. The European Council generally convenes twice every six months in Brussels. Finland’s representative at the European Council is the Prime Minister.

The Council of the European Union formulates the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy on the basis of the European Council’s guidelines and makes the decisions needed for defining and implementing the policy. Finland is represented at the meetings by the relevant minister. The Council meets in different configurations depending on the topic.

The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) meets approximately once a month to prepare matters relating to CFSP. Member States’ foreign ministers make the actual CFSP decisions and implement the policy in these meetings. Finland’s representative in the FAC meetings is the Minister for Foreign Affairs or, depending on the topic, by the minister responsible for development policy and development cooperation, trade policy or defence. Ministers also meet informally. The EU Foreign Ministers’ informal meeting is called Gymnich and it usually convenes twice a year.

Decisions to be made by the Council of the European Union are prepared by Member States’ representatives in working groups and the Political and Security Committee (COPS/PSC), which was established on the basis of Helsinki Summit Decisions (1999). The PSC convenes at ambassadorial level to monitor the international situation in the areas covered by the CFSP, participate in the definition of policies by delivering opinions to the Council and monitor the implementation of the agreed policy. Together with the High Representative, the PSC exercises political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations.

After issues have been handled at the PSC and prior to decision-making in the Council, they are discussed in the Permanent Representatives Committee, Coreper, which is responsible for the preparation of the Council’s decision-making. As a rule, Coreper gives the “finishing touches” to all issues that will be submitted to the Council.
Finland works actively in all of these working groups and committees promoting the consideration of its standpoints and the development of the CFSP.

CFSP financing

Activities in the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy which do not have military or defence implications are mainly financed from the Union Budget under the CFSP budget heading. Operations to be financed from the CFSP budget include crisis management operations, conflict prevention, resolution and stabilisation, monitoring and implementation of peace and security processes; non-proliferation and disarmament; European Union Special Representatives.

The EU’s military crisis management operations (including the so-called common costs to be covered through the Athena mechanism) and possible other actions with military or defence implications, are financed from the Member States’ national budgets. 

Terminology

PSC/ COPS = Political and Security Committee (Comité politique et de sécurité

Démarche = representation or statement of views

EU = European Union

EEAS = European External Action Service

FAC = Foreign Affairs Council

CFSP = European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy
 

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