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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Policy Paper 52: Understanding Europe’s "New" Common Foreign and Security Policy


The European Union (EU) has recently re-launched its ambitions for a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which might even lead to a European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI). This paper explains the functioning of these mechanisms for outsiders and assesses the EU’s potential for success in these domains by placing them in their proper historical context, which extends back to the creation of "European Political Cooperation" in 1970. It argues that despite a number of obstacles there are still strong reasons to believe that the EU will be able to develop more effective cooperation in these areas, based on 1) the EU’s common foreign/security policy interests; 2) recent changes in the decision-making mechanisms of the CFSP/ESDI; 3) the common European resources that are now devoted to this area; and 4) the EU’s performance record in foreign/security policy cooperation, which is not limited to its problems in the Balkans. While generally optimistic, the paper concludes on a note of caution about these developments, noting the challenges involved in developing this new capacity while also managing other crucial problems of integration, such as the single European currency and enlargement to the East.

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