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The Iraq War and the failure of European Union foreign policy

The Iraq War and the failure of European Union foreign policy

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Elsa Sanchez. Originally submitted for European Union Politics at Trinity College, Dublin, with lecturer Dr. Raj Chari in the category of International Relations & Politics
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Elsa Sanchez. Originally submitted for European Union Politics at Trinity College, Dublin, with lecturer Dr. Raj Chari in the category of International Relations & Politics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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[Type text]
The Iraq War and the failure of European Union foreign policy
Scholar Akan Malici has noted “international crises have a habit of embarrassing the EU”
(Malici, 2008, p.4
). The European Union’s (EU) reaction towards the outbreak of the Iraq War in2003 is just one of many examples which support Malici’
s observation. In 2003 the EU provedto be incapable of speaking with a unified voice on Iraq and failed to agree on a commonEuropean position towards the conflict. This event clearly demonstrated the inefficacy of the
Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Political scientists have put forward anarray of explanations in attempts to account for the impotence of the European Union in foreignpolicy; this essay will first briefly introduce the CFSP and then discuss some of the majorvariables of analysis outlined by scholars which help to explain the deficiency of the CFSP inregards to the Iraq War incident. The variables discussed will first focus on the divergentnational interests amongst the member states, secondly the inherent weaknesses of the CFSP, andlastly the role of the US in European foreign policy. This paper will conclude with an outline of some of the changes to EU foreign policy as introduced by the Lisbon Treaty and a discussion of 
how these changes might impact the EU’s capacity for future foreign policy coordination.
 The CFSP was established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, altered by the AmsterdamTreaty in 1999 and once more by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. The creation of the CFSPinstitutionalised foreign and security policy within the EU policy framework (Chari &Kritzinger, 2006). In theory the CFSP is an integral element of the EU as it was originally one of 
the three pillars constituting the EU’s overarching institutional structure; however, in practice the
CFSP has failed to live up to its expectations. While the predecessor to the CFSP, EuropeanPolitical Cooperation (EPC), was successful in facilitating a common policy in the Middle East
[Type text]in the 1970s, the CFSP has been generally unsuccessful in its dealings with internationalconflicts (Chari & Kritzinger, 2006, pp.191-211). Since its inception the CFSP has largely beenviewed as a disappointment by the international community.The main objectives of the CFSP are outlined in Article 11 of the EU Treaty andessentially consist of supporting the common values of the UN Charter, strengthening thesecurity of the EU, preserving peace and strengthening international security, promotinginternational cooperation, and promoting democratic values and respect for human rights (Chari,18/3/2010). The CFSP is endowed with three legal instruments at its disposal to be used inpursuit of these objectives: joint actions, common positions, and common strategies (EuropaGlossary, 2010). These instruments have been used sparingly over the years and in the event of the Iraq War the CFSP failed to utilise these tools to establish a common foreign policy stance.While the fifteen members states did agree to issue a joint declaration conveying their unitedsupport for UN Resolution 1441 in February of 2003 before the declaration of war, when the USactually decided to go to war the EU took no further action (Puetter & Weiner, 2007, pp.1065-1088). At this point the member states were unable to develop a common position on Iraq via theCFSP.
Divergent Interests of Member States
The first explanation for this failure of policy coordination between member states isconsistent with realist and intergovernmentalist theories of international relations and widelysupported by scholars and observers. It is commonly argued that the divergent interests of thefifteen member states are to blame for the failure to create a common position. From the outsetthe various member states held very different opinions on the war and were set to pursue their
[Type text]own interests, putting their national interests before that of the common European interests. Fromthis it is evident that member states seek to retain a high level of national sovereignty when itcomes to matters of foreign policy. Within the EU member states are effectively caught betweenthe desire to act collectively on the world stage and the desire to retain national autonomy andthis continuous struggle is evident in the policy outcomes, or lack thereof, of the CFSP (Smith,2008, pp. 1-23).From early on the UK was adamant in its support for the US. The Blair administrationsought to preserve the special relations between the two countries, seemingly ranking thetransatlantic relations as more important than European relations. Additionally, it is argued thatthe UK perceived Iraq to be more of a threat than the other EU countries and therefore sawmilitary action in Iraq as more of a necessity to the preservation of national security (Stahl, 2010,pp.1-23). Spain, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and some of the newly incorporated Easternand Central European countries joined the UK in support of the US, forming the so-called
coalition of the willing
(Chari, 19/3/2010). However, even among the coalition of the willing
the actual attitudes towards the war were highly fragmented, ranging from “mere rhetoricalsupport (Netherlands) to massive military engagement (UK)”
and demonstrating the extent towhich the individual interest of each state varied (Stahl, 2010, pp.1-23).The group of countries opposed to military action in Iraq was led by France andGermany. Whereas Britain, Spain and some of the other countries of the coalition of the willingsought to solidify transatlantic ties to the US, France and Germany sought to strengthen the tiesbetween EU member states and to reinforce their traditional positions as leaders of the EU (Chari& Kritzinger, 2006, pp.206-7). While Britain was quick to pursue an aggressive foreign policytowards Iraq, France and Germany were extremely hesitant to follow and firmly advocated the

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