Tag Archives: security

Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)

There has been much talk about when or if the European Union will start speaking with one voice internationally and in foreign affairs. A lot of things instantly come to mind – energy policy, Human Rights, multilateral trade agreements, military activity – the list goes on.

The EU is a global player, with its own economic and geopolitical interests. If the EU were to protect these interests, that are EU citizens’ interests, we have to be able to speak with one voice with our partners.

The European External Action Service was created with the Lisbon Treaty. Baroness Catherine Ashton was chosen as the first High Representative of this institution and of the EU’s foreign affairs. Hopefully she will not fail in her assignments to co-ordinate and stand for agreed positions of the Member States. Otherwise Europe’s international influence will fade indefinitely and the EU dissolve internally. Such a situation could then be characterised by an already existing anecdote – Hillary Clinton dials Cathy Ashton’s number. An answering machine picks up the phone. The following message is read out: “You have called the High Representative of the EU Foreign Affairs. Unfortunately our working day is finished. If you have a question and wish to know the position of France, dial 1; if you wish to know the position of Germany, dial 2”. And so on…

Hopefully the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) can help in avoiding this scenario. The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is also a part of this. There is already in place the Crisis Management and Planning Directorate (CMPD) that gives Members States and non Member States alike the chance to co-operate on different security related issues. The institution is also responsible for designing the EU’s political and strategic concepts regarding CSDP missions and operations. The latter is going to be the heart and basis for the EU’s External Action Service, concentrating on preventing and reacting on civilian crises (e.g. natural disasters) here and abroad.

In addition we have the European Defence Agency, whose assignment is to develop a functioning system to satisfy the needs of the CSDP. Also, it fosters EU co-operation on weaponry and defence equipment.
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About my activities

The European Parliament is directly elected institution, which represents about 500 million citizens and their interests which are of course very differing. The EP is in close co-operation with the European Commission and European Council; together they produce legislation on issues affecting our daily lives, for example environment protection, consumer rights, equality, transport and the free movement of people, capital and services. Not to mention human rights.

The subjects or topics I am engaged in are mainly connected to the committees and delegations I sit at, although these are rather close to my heart as well.

Among them is, for instance, Iceland, the country that 1st recognised the restoration of the independence of Estonia in 1991. Currently the negotiations on Iceland’s possible accession to the EU are being held. But does the small island-state itself event want to join? Recent polls have showed that people are rather sceptical, even the political groups in Althingi have been said to debate on the issue quite seriously. If Iceland were a Member State, its economic prospects might look better than they do currently in view of the so-called Icesave case, although the latter will not be tied to the negotiations. The EU on the other hand may have a stronger voice in the Arctic region. And this is a region that will attract very much attention in the years to come…

As former Chancellor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Estonia, I was appointed the Green shadow rapporteur in AFCO regarding the European External Action Service report. Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium, EPP) and Elmar Brok (Germany, S&D) were jointly writing the report on how the new “Ministry of Foreign Affairs EU” must be constructed. This involved months of work on when and where to emphasise Human Rights, how to set up crisis prevention and management, who should be in charge of the delegations, how to deploy development aid, how much and in what areas should the EP have control over their budget and so on.

Of course having such an institution as the EEAS is vital if the EU will want to speak with one voice on a global level – or with its neighbours, for that matter. The issue of energy security is the first practical challenge that comes to mind…

This autumn the European Parliament adopted the Alejo Vidal-Quadras (Spain, EPP) resolution on security of gas supply, which calls for the EU to introduce a regulation in order to further secure gas and energy supply in Europe. The document contains several methods and ideas on how to prevent future gas conflicts as seen in the case of the Russian-Ukrainian problems in recent years. This regulation would provide preventive safety measures to ensure that nobody would be left in to the cold.

This reminds that one has to think beyond (but not excluding) its national borders in Europe. Internet freedom and intellectual property rights are issues that affect us all, especially when EU will introduce reforms in this field in the near future regardless whether you are a consumer or a provider of Internet content, be it written articles, music or videos. How should the EU respond to illegal file sharing? We are living in the 21st century and we all download a variety of things from the net. But what about the people that provide the content? If we chose to restrict downloading in today’s form, what measures can be taken? To what extent can we monitor peoples’ activities online? As anyone may guess, these questions affect us all.

Should there be introduced any directives or regulations on a EU level that the citizens will regard unsuitable, lacking or simply bad and they wish to change it – or even call for creating an entirely new EU policy – they have the chance to do so with the European Citizen Initiative. This is a project going to be launched next year, with the aim of giving EU’s citizens the right to introduce an idea for new legislation by the Commission; the latter has to respond and justify its answer and action that will or will not follow.

This is undoubtedly a big step in the development of the citizen society, moreover that all people from all Member States can have a say. This all will have to follow strict rules that are currently in the making. For example, according to the latest state of play, at least 1 million signatures have to be collected from at least 1/3 of the Member States, plus the number of signatures has to be proportionate to the population of that state. This opens up an even greater window of opportunity for small countries. As for now, the setting up of the system continues.

European Citizen's Initiative (ECI)

The Lisbon Treaty introduces a new form of public participation in European Union policy shaping, the European citizens’ initiative (ECI). It is widening up the sphere of public debate, allowing citizens to participate more intensively in the democratic life of the Union.

Since  the December  2009, when the treaty entered into force, the European Commission, whilst retaining its initiative and therefore not being bound to make a proposal following a citizens’ initiative, it is committed to carefully examine all initiatives that fall within the framework of its powers in order to consider whether a new policy proposal would be appropriate.  Through this new “participatory democracy” tool, the citizens shall have more opportunity take part of the EU debates, bringing Europe closer to its citizens.

According to the new treaty, the initiative must have the support of at least one million citizens from at least one third of the member states (i.e. at the moment from 9 MS ) for the Commission to consider it.

The European Commission has now adopted a proposal for a Regulation on the citizen’s initiative, which states in greater detail which regulations the Europeans should follow when proposing an initiative. According to the proposal, the fixed threshold of signatures in each MS must be degressively proportional to the population of each Member State. It means that in the four smaller MS the amount of signatures to be gathered is 4 500, and in the biggest MS, Germany, 72 000 citizen’s signatures. This proportionality principle has awoken a lot of dissatisfaction and disputes among the MEPs (similarily to the EEAS discussion), since collecting 72 000 signatures is far more complicated than to get the support of only 4 500 citizens.

Once at least 300 000 signatures have been gathered from three Member States, the initiative will be presented to the Commission. The Commission  then has to check the admissibility of it, and decide whether the initiative falls within its powers and is in an area where legislation is possible. The Commission would have four months to examine the initiative itself. It would then have to decide whether to make a legislative proposal, to follow up the issue for example with a study, or not to take any further action.

In case of the green light, i.e. a positive answer by the Commission, the initiative organiser has one year to collect the necessary  signatures.

It is important that this new feature of the democratic process should be credible, should fully assure data protection and should not be open to abuse or fraud. To avoid fraud, the citizens have to provide their home address, date of birth, nationality and personal identity number (national ID card, passport or social security number. This point might become an obstacle when collecting signatures because only few would agree giving such detailed personal data.

The organisers must also provide the information about funding. Transparency is the key word of this new democratic instrument. But as citizen’s rights and data protection are constantly very important issues, there are ongoing disputes and discussions about how detailed personal data the citizens should provide.

The Commission hopes that the Council and Parliament will reach final agreement on the ECI before the end of this year, to allow the first initiatives to be brought forward in 2011.

For more information on ECI, please read: