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International Law and International Organizations
Правильная ссылка на статью:

Year 2019 and international agenda of the European Council / 2019 год и международная повестка дня Европейского Совета

Sultanova Nigar Tahir Kizi

Advisor to the rector on international affairs Azerbaijan Technical University

AZ1154, Азербайджан, Narimanov District область, г. Baku, ул. Hidayatzade, 7a, кв. 133

Sultanova Nigar Tahir qizi

Advisor to the Rector on International Affairs, Azerbaijan Technical University

AZ1154, Azerbaidzhan, Narimanov District oblast', g. Baku, ul. Hidayatzade, 7a, kv. 133

nigar.t.sultanova@gmail.com

DOI:

10.7256/2454-0633.2020.1.32299

Дата направления статьи в редакцию:

29-02-2020


Дата публикации:

09-04-2020


Аннотация.

Европейский совет является высшим уровнем политического сотрудничества между странами ЕС. Различные вопросы, касающиеся международной политики обсуждаются здесь на самых разных уровнях: саммиты (в 2019 г. саммит Лиги арабских государств ЕС, саммит ЕС-Китай, саммит Украина-ЕС в Киеве, саммит ЕС-Канада в Монреале, саммит G7), советы и неформальные встречи, заседания советов по иностранным делам, совместные советы, советы ассоциаций и т. д. В новой стратегической повестке дня на 2019-2024 годы, принятой Европейским советом, определены приоритетные области, которыми руководствуются в своей работе Европейские специальные советы (четыре и три соответственно), Совет и другие институты ЕС. Трансатлантические отношения, кризисы в Сирии, Украине и других частях света, отношения с Россией, ядерная сделка Ирана и прочие вопросы остаются одними из главных на повестке дня Европейского Совета. Внешние связи являются постоянным пунктом повестки дня Европейского Совета. В статье также рассматриваются правовые основы действий Европейского Совета в области внешней политики.Обзор внешнеполитической повестки Европейского совета позволяет проанализировать роль ЕС на мировой арене.

Ключевые слова: Европейский совет, внешняя политика, саммит, председательство, международная повестка дня, ЕС, политика, международное право, стратегия, политическое сотрудничество

Abstract.

The European Council represents the supreme level of political cooperation between the EU member-states. Diverse questions pertaining to international politics are discusses on the various levels: summits (in 2019 EU – League of Arab States summit, EU –China summit, EU – Ukraine summit in Kyiv, EU – Canada summit in Montreal, G7 summit); conferences and informal meetings; council boards on foreign affairs; joint conferences; association councils, etc. A new strategic agenda 2019-2024 adopted by the European Council determines he priority areas that guide the work of the European Special Councils and other EU institutions. Transatlantic relations, crises in Syria, Ukraine and other parts of the world, relations with Russia, Iran nuclear deal, and other question remain on the agenda of the European Council. The article explores the legal framework of the actions of European Council in the area of foreign policy. The overview of foreign policy agenda of the European Council allows analyzing the role of the European Union on the international arena.

Keywords:

politics, European Community, international agenda, Presidency, Summit, foreign policy, European Council, international law, strategy, political cooperation

Introduction

European Council represents the highest level of political cooperation between EU countries. Although it exists since 1975 as an informal summit, Lisbon Treaty signed in 2007 granted European Council a status of official EU institution with a permanent president and the Commission President. [10] European Council doesn’t have legislative powers but it defines EU’s political directions by “providing the Union with the necessary impetus for its development” and defining its “general political directions and priorities”. Major political events and initiatives are being decided mainly by consensus. However, specific cases may require unanimity or qualified majority. Different issues are discussed at different levels: summits (in 2019 EU-League of Arab States summit, EU –China summit, EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv, EU-Canada summit in Montreal, G7 summit), councils and special councils (in 2019 four and three respectively), informal meetings, informal dinners, foreign affairs councils, joint councils, association councils etc. This article is a brief review over the main foreign policy related issues on European Council agenda in 2019 in order to analyze the international relations network as well as the productive work of EU’s institutions, namely European Council in maintaining and enhancing cooperation. Transatlantic relations, crises in Syria, Ukraine and other parts of the world, relations with Russia, Iran’s nuclear deal attract attention of the European Council. External relations are a persistent item on the agenda of European Council and the article explores also on the legal basis for EU’s action in the area of foreign policy.

Legal basis for action in foreign affairs

Treaty on European Union (TEU) provides a legal basis for European Council action in different areas, in particular in foreign affairs. [9] Member States represented “in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government” consult within European Council (and Council of EU) in order to determine common approach. It gives general orientations for foreign and security policy, such as:

“The European Council shall identify the Union's strategic interests, determine the objectives of and define general guidelines for the common foreign and security policy, including for matters with defence implications. It shall adopt the necessary decisions.” (art.26)

Treaty also clarifies the mechanisms of decision-making process and makes it clear that unanimity is required unless qualified majority applies. In matters of common security and defence policy (CSFP) the European Council decides unanimously and recommends to the Member States “the adoption of such a decision in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements”. (art.42)

TEU also defines the role of the President the European Council which “ensures the external representation of the Union” in a way that does not prejudice the action of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. (art.15) President also has right to “convene an extraordinary meeting of the European Council in order to define the strategic lines of the Union's policy in the face of such developments”. (art.26)

The clause of TEU providing a mechanism on voluntary and unilateral withdrawal of a country from the EU, entitles European Council to “negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State” (art.50)

Major events at European Council agenda in 2019

Among the biggest events of the year 2019 were G20 summit in Osaka, Japan and G7 Summit in Biarrits, France. EU was represented by the President of European Council along with the President of the European Commission. Another significant meeting was a special meeting of the European Council on 30 June 2019 gathered to agree upon nominations for the EU top jobs: Charles Michel was elected as the new President of the European Council, Ursula von der Leyen proposed as a candidate for the President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell Fontelles as candidate for the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Christine Lagarde as candidate for the President of the European Central Bank.

The European Council adopted on June 2019 a new strategic agenda 2019-2024. Priority areas outlined in the document guide the work of the European Council and other EU institutions. These priorities are protecting citizens and freedoms; developing a strong and vibrant economic base; building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe and promoting European interests and values on the global stage. [1]

Also, the Romanian presidency was introduced at the Council in beginning of the year by highlighting four main pillars: Europe of convergence, a safer Europe, Europe as a stronger global actor and Europe of common values. [8] For the purpose of this article let us focus more on the third pillar which called for further consolidation of global role of the EU in enlargement and neighborhood issues as well as in implementation of the Global Strategy. The latter is EU doctrine on wide range of issues, that was adopted on 28 of June of 2016 and replaced European Security Strategy of 2003. EU’s role of a global player depends on the way and pace this Strategy is implemented. One of the crucial objectives in this term is to foster of EU’s defence and security by enhancing the ongoing initiatives and consolidating partnership between EU-NATO. During the Romanian Presentation, a call was made for more synergy of the new instruments, such as Coordinated Annual Review on Defence, European Defence Fund, and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). With the view of the enlargement process, Western Balkans remained the region of special attention. As for perspective EU partners in the region, enlargement will continue on own merits of those countries. Turkey was specially mentioned in the presentation not only as a candidate country but also as a key partner for the EU in many areas. To ensure more consistency in EU neighbourhood policy, a need was specifically expressed for more effective implementation of the Eastern Partnership with a special focus on Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia, as well as on the regions of Black Sea and Central Asia. EU’s commitments in support of preserving a global multilateral order based on rules are vital objective of the abovementioned pillar. Hence, transatlantic relations as well as relations between the EU and the UN will serve to the fostering of sustainable development and promoting peace.

Cooperation with different countries and organizations

The agenda of European Council in 2019 was full of events that dealt with different countries and organizations of the world. Relations with African Union (AU) were topic of discussions throughout the year in political, economic and multilateral level. The cooperation with African countries is based on Cotonou agreement. Joint Africa-EU strategy, as well as formal dialogues at various levels and regional strategies adopted with Horn of Africa, Gulf of Guinea and Sahel focus on areas such as trade, development, security, migration, counter terrorism etc.

EU relations with Arab countries have a long and rich history. Cooperation with League of Arab States (LAS) were discussed at ministerial meeting and also at first EU-LAS summit ever held on February 2019 in Egypt. Multilateralism, trade, fight against terrorism, migration, climate change and regional issues were topics of discussions. [2]

In 2019 EU continued to develop on different levels cooperation with Asian countries. Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) being a forum for dialogue and cooperation serves to strengthening of relationship between two continents. At ASEM summits and ministerial meetings wide range of issues are discussed and agreed upon. [4] EU also promotes bilateral level of cooperation. Productive engagement with China demands more consistent and united approach at EU level. The objectives and priorities of cooperation between EU-China are reflected in EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation. European Council repeatedly called for deepening cooperation with China on multilateralism, climate change, non-proliferation, peace-keeping and regional security challenges. European Council is expected to endorse 10 actions with reference to human rights, climate change, peace and security, sustainable economic development, security implications for critical digital infrastructure and foreign investment in critical assets, technologies and infrastructure. EU-Japan relations witnessed a progress in free trade agreement, cooperation in the area of connectivity, data protection and climate change etc. Japan is one of the EU’s closest partners both on bilateral level and multilateral fora. Relations with ASEAN were agreed to grow into a strategic partnership. EU and ASEAN foreign ministers discussed a wide range of issues including on regional and international cooperation in issues related to climate change, security cooperation, etc. [7]

In light of the previous reports on Turkey, the Association Council reviewed the state of EU-Turkey bilateral relations. Back in 1999 upon the meeting of European Council in Helsinki, Turkey obtained candidate status. Since that date numerous wide-ranging conferences, summits and leader’s meetings took place. However due to the conclusions of General Affairs Council, accession negotiations have effectively come to a standstill. [3] Despite of this, Turkey remains EU’s key partner. Another important fact is that it hosts over four million refugees and the EU is committed to assist Turkey in dealing with this challenge.

Support to political transformation and reconstruction of Syria was one of the most important topics in foreign policy agenda of EU in 2019. EU and UN co-chaired on 12-14 March 2019 the Third Conference on "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region". [6] Remembered as the “days of dialogue” this conference was a platform for civil society representatives from Syria and the region, ministers and other stakeholders from the neighboring countries, regional organizations, UN agencies, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

EU attaches a special importance to the region of South Caucasus. The 16th meeting of the Cooperation Council between the EU and Azerbaijan that took place on 4 April 2019 in Brussels stated the intensification of EU-Azerbaijan relations in light of ongoing negotiations on a new agreement and the adoption of Partnership Priorities. High-level security and transport dialogues were launched. The important areas of cooperation continue to be energy, transport, trade and sectoral cooperation. Concluding a new comprehensive bilateral agreement that is to replace the 1996 partnership and cooperation agreement, remains a top priority for both sides. The EU supports mediation of OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in relation to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

With reference to EU-Georgia relations, the Association Council reviewed the progress of the implementation of the association agreement, including the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement (DCFTA). It must be noted that Georgia expressed its European aspirations and a special document "Roadmap 2EU" was prepared in order to enhance Georgia's integration with the EU. [5] Economic development and market opportunities; strengthening institutions and good governance; connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change; enhancing mobility and people-to-people contacts are agreed by both sides as priority areas for cooperation. First EU-Georgia High Level Transport Dialogue on plays an important role boosting connectivity and international trade between Europe and Asia. The EU reiterated on many occasions its support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders of its partners, including Georgia. In this particular case this support is being backed up by EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia.

Among other issues discussed at European Council throughout the year were issues related to Brexit, Montenegro's progress in the preparations for membership, implementation of the Stockholm agreement with reference to conflict in Yemen, support to democratic and peaceful outcome to the crisis in Venezuela, reconciliation and economic integration with Horn of Africa, pre-accession strategy of the Republic of North Macedonia, strategic partnership with countries of Central Asia, regional security in the Gulf region and Iran, peace and stability in Libya, Afghanistan's peace process, 5 structured political dialogues with Cuba, cooperation with Ukraine, Moldova, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco etc. Council had comprehensive discussions on situation in Ukraine and reiterated its support to its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Conclusions

Although European Council doesn’t have legislative powers it is the one who sets political agenda of EU. At this institution issues of concern are identified and actions to be taken are outlined. With regards to foreign policy, European Council is the ultimate decision-maker in EU. The President of the European Council also plays a significant leadership role on external policy. General overview of the foreign policy agenda of European Council in 2019 allows to draw a conclusion that EU foreign and security policy seeks to preserve peace and strengthen international security, as well as promote international cooperation and consolidate democracy and rule of law. But for EU to be a stronger global actor it needs to enhance the “coherence and effectiveness” of the European external action. EU leaders will have to confirm their commitment to act with a single voice on international arena.

Библиография
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Fitriani, E. (2014). Southeast Asians and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute.
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Guthrie, S. (2019). Bakhtadze Presents Roadmap to EU Membership in Brussels. [online] Georgia Today on the Web. Available at: http://georgiatoday.ge/news/14784/Bakhtadze-Presents-Roadmap-to-EU-Membership-in-Brussels [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020].
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References (transliterated)
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Consilium.europa.eu. (2019). A new strategic agenda 2019-2024. [online] Available at: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/39914/a-new-strategic-agenda-2019-2024-en.pdf [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020].
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Ec.europa.eu. (2019). COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT Turkey 2019 Report Accompanying the document Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions 2019 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy. [online] Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/20190529-turkey-report.pdf [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020].
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Fitriani, E. (2014). Southeast Asians and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute.
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Guthrie, S. (2019). Bakhtadze Presents Roadmap to EU Membership in Brussels. [online] Georgia Today on the Web. Available at: http://georgiatoday.ge/news/14784/Bakhtadze-Presents-Roadmap-to-EU-Membership-in-Brussels [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020].
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The article in review is devoted to the agenda of the European Council in 2019. 2019 was a very important year for the European Union because of the major transformation of the EU took place: Great Britain has committed decisive steps to exit this organization. The European Council is an important organisation within the EU responsible for defending the Union's strategic interests. It determines the objectives of and define general guidelines for the common foreign and security policy, including for matters with defense implications. It looks like the author has selected a good topic to study. The article has solid structure, enough bibliography, and satisfactory level of scientific English. However, the author uses quite a common approach for evaluation of the Council’s agenda. It has no quantitative data to verify which of the agenda’s topics are more or less important. As a result some Council’s decisions look like idealistic dreams. For example, the European Council adopted on June 2019 a new strategic agenda for 2019-2024 stating out that Europe is to be a stronger global actor. But how the EU will become “a stronger global actor” with losing Great Britain which obviously will follow the USA’s foreign policy? The article mentions Brexit only once as an unimportant event in one sentence with such 'important' things as Montenegro's progress in the preparations for membership, implementation of the Stockholm agreement with reference to conflict in Yemen, support to democratic and peaceful outcome to the crisis in Venezuela, reconciliation and economic integration with Horn of Africa, pre-accession strategy of the Republic of North Macedonia, etc. As a reviewer, I believe that the criteria for evaluation of the agenda of the European Council are much demanded. To be honest, I also think that the author needs to have a review with a professional proofreader in English since there are too many articles ‘the’ missed (especially before EU). It was hard to find any traces of critique or discussion with other authors on the topic. However, the article could cause some interest from the specialists in the field but I don’t think this is the case because the article has been written in English. And I doubt there will be some international attention since there is no quantitative research here or no Russia involvement in the issue. Summing up, to indicate criteria for the agenda, to solve issues with articles 'the' and 'a', and to bring the problem of Brexit on top will improve the quality of the article.