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The foreign policy of the European Union in a nutshell

There are four major EU institutions involved in foreign policy decision-making: the Council (which brings together government ministers of the 27 member states), the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European External Action Service (EEAS) which is headed by the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy (HRVP).

The HRVP (currently the Spaniard Josep Borrell) is appointed by the European Council (heads of government of the EU member states) for a term of usually five years. Ex officio, he is also a member of the European Commission, of which he is a vice-president. The HRVP also chairs meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council and as such has a leading role in two EU institutions, which is unique. The HRVP heads the European External Action Service (EEAS), which is the diplomatic service of the European Union. The EEAS manages EU delegations in third countries and prepares proposals for decisions and actions.

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Decision-making on foreign policy is slightly different than in other policy areas. According to Article 27 of the Treaty (the EU constitution), the “Council shall act on a proposal from the High Representative [of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy], after consulting the European Parliament and after obtaining the consent of the Commission.” This means that the Parliament cannot veto any decisions on foreign policy, it is merely consulted and can adopt non-binding resolutions.

Moreover, the Council normally takes its decisions by unanimity in most cases. There have been proposals recently to abandon the unanimity principle and to switch to so-called qualified majority-voting (QMV) on foreign policy decisions, too. However, such a move would need the approval of all 27 EU member states. Smaller countries in particular are opposed to giving up their veto power.

The Council has certain instruments at its disposal. One of the so-called restrictive measures against individuals or entities. Commonly, they are referred to as “sanctions”. In practice, being added to the EU sanctions list means that individuals cannot travel to the EU any longer and that the assets they hold in any EU country are being frozen as long as they are under sanctions. Sanctions need to be confirmed by the Council every six months. Recently, the EU approved restrictive measures against well over a thousand Russian nationals, following the war against Ukraine.

EU Watch foreign policy desk


Over the past weeks, in response to the war against Ukraine, EU foreign policy has undergone dramatic and rapid transformation. Sweeping sanctions against Russia were adopted, arms supplies to Ukraine approved and a more “robust” diplomacy was adopted. What will be the impact? Will this be the template for a new EU foreign policy? What will it mean for other conflict zones, like the Middle East, or for the EU’s relations with China and the United States?

EU Watch wants to encourage debate and provide relevant information and insight into EU decision-making. We are thrilled to announce the launch of our Foreign Policy Desk. This will be a new hub for experts. Our aim is to guarantee high-level qualitative analysis while delivering information in a poignant manner: not with academic jargon, but first-hand knowledge and an open mind.

Our first activities will focus on the Persian Gulf region, in particular on Iran. Whilst major international powers, including the EU, are currently locked in critical negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme, there has been a noticeable lack of information and discussion on the topic. EU Watch firmly believes it is essential to enhance analysis and debate because, as we have seen in recent weeks, it can be about war and peace.

Our new Foreign Policy Desk will offer information, expert briefings, reports, podcasts with decision-makers, analysts and other relevant players. We want to serve as a hub for experts from Europe and other areas to scrutinize how the European Union acts on the international stage. We will ask: What red lines does the EU impose when dealing with aggressive states? And how does it enforce these red lines? What instruments does the EU have at its disposal? And does it favour doing business over protecting its citizens against attacks?

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We are a group of EU citizens who trust in the potential of the European Union.
We support the values and principles of the European Union and want to ensure that they are respected in everyday decision-making.

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[email protected] announced the 9️⃣ package of sanctions against #Russia:

+200 🇷🇺 individuals and entities on the EU sanctions list

+3 🇷🇺 banks

+ 4 propaganda channels off the air

🚫 ban on direct exports of drone engines to 🇷🇺 and the export to any third countries, such as #Iran

EU today requested the establishment of panels at the World Trade Organization for two of its ongoing trade disputes with China:

1: Legality of trade restrictions China has had in place against Lithuanian exports and EU exports containing Lithuanian content since December 2021.


Western Balkans standing together with the EU is a clear sign of their strategic orientation. A common vision of the future involves mutual responsibilities and shared values.!bfnrYm

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