The European Council and the CFSP after the Lisbon Treaty

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The Treaty of Lisbon has further reinforced the position of the European Council at the top of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) decision-making hierarchy. This has encouraged the Heads of State or Government to go beyond their fundamental task of establishing the CFSP political priorities and strategic course, by attempting to take direct responsibility in CFSP crisis situations such as the Libyan revolt of 2011.This article reviews the European Council's CFSP performance since the entry into force of the LisbonTreaty.The yardstick used in this assessment is the degree to which the European Council has managed to foster a common approach to the international foreign and security problems confronting the European Union. While the European Council has, in the past, been reasonably successful in shaping and establishing the basic structures for the CFSP and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), analysis shows that its intergovernmental nature and the sporadic character of its meetings make it entirely unsuited for the role of CFSP 'executive' in crisis moments.Through its institutional shortcomings as crisis manager, the European Council is itself a contributing factor fostering twenty-seven unilateral or sub-EU initiatives by Member States with a greater diplomatic tradition and capacity. It is therefore suggested that the European Council should come to a more effective division of labour with the Foreign Affairs Council whereby the Heads of State or Government focus on their longer-term structural and strategic tasks rather than on CFSP crisis management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-350
Number of pages24
JournalEuropean Foreign Affairs Review
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • European Union
  • European Council
  • Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
  • Treaty of Lisbon


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