[holding answer 5 February 2009]: The European Council sets the direction for the EU through a process of negotiation between the 27 member states, and makes its decisions known through Council conclusions. Every six months the rotating EU presidency publishes a plan of action which is reported to the Council and contains a section on foreign policy. However, these papers do not rank foreign policy objectives in priority order.
The 2003 European Security Strategy (ESS) provides the framework for the EU’s external action. In December 2008 the European Council endorsed the High Representatives Review of the implementation of the ESS. The ESS and the review suggest that Europe needs to be more active, more capable and more coherent in the external sphere and to work with partners in achieving its objectives. These include tackling distant threats such as terrorism and proliferation, with a focus on Iran and North Korea; building security in our neighbourhood including in the Balkans, the Middle East and the Mediterranean; and contributing to a well functioning international institutional system that is rule-based. The documents set out the need for the EU to tackle concerns over “frozen conflicts”, to push towards a settlement in the Middle East and to focus on ensuring energy security, including greater diversification of energy sources and a more unified energy market within the EU.
The review makes clear the principle that states have a shared responsibility to protect populations, and that there is a link between security and development leading to the need for a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention and resolution combining all of the tools at the EU’s disposal. The review also acknowledges the role that the EU has to play in conflicts further afield such as stabilising Afghanistan, and supporting UN objectives in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan/Darfur, Chad and Somalia. It also recognises the need for the EU to expand relationships with China and India and maintain close ties with Canada and Japan, and build on relations with Brazil and South Africa.