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The European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy

The European Union has a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) that enables it to take action and express its position on the international stage. It was originally set up as a foreign policy cooperation mechanism for the different countries, and was subsequently incorporated into the acquis communautaire of the Treaties following the 1997 Maastricht Treaty. The CFSP was consolidated with the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, which gave the Union its own legal personality and the capacity to enter into agreements with States and International Organisations. The main innovation was the creation of the role of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (currently held by Spain's Josep Borrell), who heads the CFSP with extensive autonomy, special prerogatives and resources including the European External Action Service (EEAS). 

The HR/VP also serves as Vice-President of the European Commission, and is responsible for ensuring the coherence and effectiveness of the EU's overall foreign policy in the areas of development aid, trade, humanitarian aid and crisis response. 

The CFSP remains a specific intergovernmental policy governed by unanimity, and characterised by a number of special procedures and the general exclusion of the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice.

The objectives of the CFSP, as set out in Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union, are to maintain peace and strengthen international security, to promote international cooperation with third States, and to develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, as well as respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. To this end, the European Union maintains partnerships and political dialogues, based on mutual interests and benefits, with the main international actors, and holds regular Summits with the countries that the EU has a strategic partnership with, as well as multiple meetings at different levels with other countries and regional bodies on different continents.

To meet the goal of maintaining peace and strengthening international security, the Union has established a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), as an integral element of the CFSP, providing its own operational foreign capacity through civilian missions and military operations in third countries.  

Since the publication of the 2016 EU Global Strategy on Security, the CSDP aims to support the EU's role as a global security provider, including decisions on the crises it has to address, the means necessary for this, and the role of its partners in this task.

In the field of capability development, the European Council, actively supported by Spain and other Member States, launched the Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence (PESC) in 2017. This is enhanced cooperation to improve coordination and increase defence investments for defence capability development. Through CFSP, Member States increase their effectiveness in addressing security challenges and move towards further integration and strengthening of defence cooperation within the EU framework. The European Defence Action Plan was launched in 2020. This includes a financial instrument, the European Defence Fund, which supports research, development and innovation in this field, an initiative that sees Spain and its industry play an important role.

These new CSDP tools combine with renewed support for civilian missions through the Civilian CSDP Compacts of 2018 and 2023, the CARD initiative (Coordinated Review on Defence by the European Defence Agency), the European Peace Facility (EPF, to finance military equipment and services for EU partners, which played a key role in supporting the Ukrainian armed forces following the Russian aggression in 2022), and lastly, the Strategic Compass, a guiding document which, seeking common actions for the CSDP framework and based on an analysis of threats and challenges that the EU faces, sets out goals with associated time markers for making progress in the EU's role as a global security player. 

In the field of operations, Spain shows its involvement in the CSDP by providing political support, and by contributing resources and capabilities to the missions that the Union deploys in different geographical regions. Specifically, Spain's action in recent years has focused on two fundamental regions: the Horn of Africa and West Africa, with the EUNAVFOR ATALANTA, EUTM-Somalia and EUTM-Mali operations and missions. For civilian missions, contributions towards the EUCAP Sahel Mali, EUCAP Sahel Niger and EUAM Ukraine operations stand out. Spain has led three Battlegroups since 2006. These are units formed by a coalition of Member States and placed on a rotating basis at the disposal of the European Union within the scope of the CSDP (Spain has also participated in three Battlegroups led by other EU countries), and have never been used. During its Presidency of the Council in 2023, Spain hosted the first exercise of the EU Rapid Deployment Capacity (RDC), which the Strategic Compass establishes for crisis management missions.


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