Foreign and development policy

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Norway and the EU often have similar views on foreign policy issues, and cooperate closely in this area. With its 28 member states, the EU is a major power on the global stage. It has become increasingly important for the EU to speak with a single voice on foreign policy issues in order to safeguard its and the member states’ interests, and to gain acceptance for their point of view. This is why the member states have gradually developed the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The most recent development in this process is the establishment of the EU’s diplomatic corps, the European External Action Service.

Norway and the EU often have similar views on foreign policy issues, and cooperate closely in this area.
Norway and the EU often have similar views on foreign policy issues, and cooperate closely in this area.

The EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), however, continues to be conducted through intergovernmental cooperation, and CFSP decisions are taken on the basis of consensus. This is an area where the member states have surrendered little sovereignty to EU institutions. The heads of state or government set guidelines for this policy when they meet in the European Council. It is then further defined and implemented by the foreign ministers of the member states, who meet once a month in the Foreign Affairs Council. The practical implementation is carried out by the European External Action Service, under the leadership of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who also chairs the Foreign Affairs Council.

Current CFSP issues include developments in Afghanistan, the peace process in the Middle East, relations with Russia, the situation in the Balkans, response to crises, and cooperation with countries and regions outside the EU. The EU countries agree on joint statements on the situation in third countries, draw up sanctions and restrictive measures against certain regimes (such as Iran), carry out joint crisis response operations (such as the anti-piracy operation off the east coast of Africa), and often adopt a common stance in international forums.

The development of the Common Foreign and Security Policy
Coordination of foreign policy in the European Community (EC) started in the 1960s. This evolved into the European Political Cooperation, but was limited to consultations between member states on foreign policy issues. Gradually, cooperation was expanded and further formalised until it found its present form in the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Cooperation in the foreign policy area became closer and more formalised as a consequence of the changes in Europe after 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The break-up of Yugoslavia and the subsequent wars and conflicts in the Balkans spurred a substantial strengthening of EU cooperation on foreign policy.

The Common Foreign and Security Policy was formally established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 and further developed under the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999, which gave the EU competence to enter into foreign policy agreements with other states and with international organisations. The Amsterdam Treaty also established the post of High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and allowed for the use of military and civilian instruments to support the CFSP. It defined the defence policy dimension as “humanitarian and rescue tasks, peace-keeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking”.   

The Lisbon Treaty, which came into force on 1 December 2009, introduced several important institutional changes to further develop the CFSP. It created the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, which took over the tasks of both the former High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Commissioner for External Relations. The European External Action Service was also established under the leadership of the High Representative. The objective of these reforms was to strengthen the EU’s role as a global actor by bringing together all the external policy tools (including international development policy, security and crisis response). The British politician Catherine Ashton was appointed High Representative on 1 December 2009, with a five-year mandate like the other commissioners.

The European External Action Service
The European External Action Service (EEAS) assists the High Representative in implementing the Common Foreign and Security Policy and in ensuring the consistency and coordination of the European Union’s external action. EU delegations in third countries are now part of the EEAS structure, and function as the EU’s diplomatic missions.

The EEAS represents a political and organisational innovation that integrates and further develops functions that were previously divided between the Council and the Commission. The EEAS is autonomous in budgetary and administrative terms.

Security policy cooperation
The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is an important part of the EU’s common platform. Global and regional crises and challenges, together with the enlargement of the union, have placed new demands on the EU’s external services. The member states attach importance to strengthening security and defence cooperation and enhancing the coordination of policy in this area. The aim is to safeguard the common values and interests of the EU countries.

In 2003 the EU adopted the European Security Strategy, which covers military crisis management, civilian crisis management and conflict prevention. The strategy emphasises the EU’s responsibility for promoting security and stability in Europe’s neighbouring countries, strengthening the international order through binding multilateral cooperation and ensuring the necessary capacity to address the most serious threats to security. It singles out five key threats: terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, state failure, organised crime and regional conflicts. The strategy takes a broad approach to security and the causes of security threats, and has a particular focus on conflict prevention.

In 2006, in connection with the further development of security policy cooperation, the EU developed the concept of EU Battlegroups (EUBG). These are standby military units that can be deployed to a crisis area at short notice.  

The Lisbon Treaty also contained a “solidarity clause” under which the member states are obliged to act in a spirit of solidarity, which may mean mobilising military resources if a member state is the target of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster.

The European Neighbourhood Policy
The enlargement of the European Union in 2004, 2007 and 2013 meant that the external borders were moved eastwards and the EU thus acquired new neighbours. It became clear that developments in the countries of Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus would also affect developments in the EU. In order to strengthen political and economic ties with these countries, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was developed.

The idea behind the ENP and the grants it provides is that closer integration into and participation in the internal market will foster political and economic reforms in line with the EU’s values and rules. The ENP is designed to promote economic and social development for people living in these countries, thus reducing the gap between the EU and its neighbours in terms of standard of living and opportunities. The ENP gives priority to cooperation in the areas of economic development, the environment, health, border control, combating organised crime and local people-to-people projects.  

In addition to Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and the countries of the Southern Caucasus – referred to as the Eastern Partnership – there is also a Euro-Mediterranean Partnership with 16 countries to the south of the EU. Full EU membership is not on the agenda for these countries, but they can gain partial access to the EU’s internal market through the ENP.

The EU as a development policy actor
The EU is an important development policy actor. It provides around 60 % of the world’s development aid, and has a designated EU Commissioner for Development (currently Andris Piebalgs of Latvia). With the establishment of the EEAS, foreign policy and development policy have become more closely linked. 

In spring 2012 the EU adopted its Agenda for Change, which sets out a more strategic EU approach to reducing poverty, in part through more targeted allocation of funding. Future EU spending is to concentrate on sectors that are crucial for long-term and inclusive growth. Africa is to be a priority geographically. The EU is also seeking to explore new ways of financing development.

National experts

Norway has several national experts working on foreign policy and development issues at the European Commission. Contact information for all the Norwegian national experts can be found on the EFTA Secretariat’s website.