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European Council President Michel in a video conference with G5 Sahel leaders and UN representatives

Strategic Orientation

The EU sees itself as the protagonist of liberal and democratic multilateralism. Article 21 of the EU treaty (TEU) commits the European Union to supporting the rule of law and upholding universal human rights in its external actions. Since the EU possesses legal status at the international level, it can participate as a player in many international formats, in full respect of competences of the member states. At the United Nations, member states are also trying to develop common positions within the framework of the CFSP. Recently, the coronavirus pandemic has shown how the EU’s commitment to multilateralism has been reflected in global health policy. At the same time, the CFSP is considered to be a prototype of multilateralism, an example that multilateralism works and of how it works, and an inspiration for its advocates. The new US administration is likely to give multilateralism additional impetus as an appropriate response to the return of traditional great power politics and to pressing global challenges like climate change. This should give the EU a better chance to influence the future international order. In light of this, the EU is likely in the coming years to develop existing interregional partnerships, for example, those with Mercosur, the African Union and ASEAN, as well as its bilateral partnerships, as with African states or Brazil. The expansion of relationships in Central Asia and in the whole Indo-Pacific region will also be a central objective for the EU.

Since CFSP measures and other areas of EU external action are closely interwoven, conflicts of authority often arise between EU institutions. For example, under the Community Method, the Council of the EU decides together with the European Parliament by qualified majority on the priorities for the allocation of EU funds to candidate countries, neighbouring countries, development partners and other non-member countries. At the same time, member states decide unanimously on other aspects of relations with these countries within the framework of CFSP. This concerns, among other things, security requirements that member states increasingly impose on external actions of the EU, as in EU strategies like the Sahel Strategy, the Cybersecurity Strategy and the Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Non-member states make use of these conflicts of authority within the EU to advance their interests against the EU. Bringing the CFSP under the roof of the supranational EU institutions as a basis for a coherent and cohesive EU foreign policy could deprive them of this lever.

Strategic Orientation in general

CFSP and multilateralism

European neighborhood

The EU and Further Third Countries