It’s time for more majority decision-making in EU foreign policy

Annalena Bierbock is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany. Hadja Lahabib is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs and Foreign Trade and the Federal Cultural Institute of Belgium. Jean Asselborn is the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg. Wopke Hoekstra is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. Bogdan Orescu is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania. Tanja Fajon is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia. Jose Manuel Alberes Bueno is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain,

In the face of Russia̵7;s aggressive war against Ukraine, the European Union has proved its ability to act. It has done so by supporting Ukraine diplomatically, economically and militarily; by cutting its energy dependence on Russia; and by offering Ukraine, as well as the Republic of Moldova, a clear EU membership perspective.

As we look to the future, this ability to take swift and decisive action will stand ready for the EU’s role as a foreign policy actor and to uphold the values ​​and interests of its citizens in an increasingly uncertain global arena. Will be ready for

We need a European Union that delivers concrete, concrete results. As recent developments have shown, we also need to increase our capacity in times of crisis – now more than ever. And as the EU expands, successful European integration requires its institutions to function effectively.

In the past, however, such swift and firm EU action was not always possible. The vast majority of decisions in EU foreign policy require consensus – which in some cases can slow down our ability to act. Despite these rules, not because of these rules, we were able to agree on 10 sanctions packages against Russia in response to a war of aggression against a sovereign state.

This is why we are advocating greater use of qualified majority voting (QMV) in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), as currently prescribed in the Treaty on the European Union (TEU).

We want to move beyond the old dividing line between those who favor greater majority decision-making and those who oppose it. We are not advocating for treaty changes, nor do we envision an academic debate. While the discussion around a more efficient CFSP is part of the wider debate on QMV in other policy areas, what we propose for the present is a pragmatic approach – focusing only on questions of EU foreign and security policy and first in the TEU. Using the provisions made from. More flexible way that can work for everyone.

First, we suggest greater use of “constructive abandonment” as set out in Article 31(1) TEU. Member states have already begun to use this simple but highly effective option, which still allows a decision to be passed – that is, by not objecting to it, and thus by passing it on to the other 26 members. does not stop.

We saw how effective “constructive restraint” can be last October, when the Foreign Affairs Council voted on a new EU training mission for the Ukrainian military. We want to build on this emerging trend – and we commit ourselves to systematically scrutinizing our own positions in order to switch from a constructive vote to a vote against.

Second, we are proposing that the QMV be put to a practical test. Some EU foreign policy areas already allow decisions by qualified majority based on Article 31(2) TEU. If, for example, the Council unanimously decides to set up a civilian EU mission, the operational terms of that mission may be decided by the QMV. We can equally apply the QMV when making decisions based on the EU’s general positions in international human rights fora.

Furthermore, we suggest adopting a decision-making approach in areas that do not require formal voting, but in practice apply consensus, nevertheless. When the High Representative makes a public statement on behalf of the EU, for example in accordance with Article 31(2) TEU, the text may be agreed upon in the Council implementing the decision by a qualified majority. This will accelerate the way we communicate and strengthen our European voice.

Third, we want to build bridges or – in EU lingo – walkers. Through the passerelle clause in Article 31(3) TEU, the Council can already decide – by consensus – by qualified majority as standard procedure in particular foreign policy areas. We suggest that this “bridge” be also searched for in well-defined regions within the CFSP.

We understand that some EU partners have concerns about using the QMV in EU foreign policy – ​​and we take these concerns seriously.

For us, seeking consensus is, and will remain, at the heart of our European DNA because seeing the world from different angles and being open to constructive compromise is an asset. As such, we will do our best to accommodate the concerns of all EU member states, ensuring the adoption of the best possible decisions for our collective interests. We will work towards further strengthening cooperation within the European Union in a spirit of mutual trust.

Obviously, Member States may apply the emergency brake provided for in Article 31(2) TEU for important and declared reasons of national policy. In addition, we will work on a “safeguard system” mechanism, in addition to the existing emergency brake, that will seek to ensure that vital national interests continue to be respected in areas of the CFSP, where the majority are extended through passerelles. Is. And we will consult with independent experts to clarify views on this and other questions.

In these difficult times, we stand for an EU that is a competent, effective and decisive actor, protecting the freedom, security and prosperity of its citizens. The European Union has always been able to move forward in challenging moments. Now, once again, it’s time to act.