MIL-OSI Europe: Briefing – European Council response to third-country conflict – 13-06-2024

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Source: European Parliament 2

As Article 24(1) of the Treaty on the European Union states, the EU’s common foreign and security policy is ‘defined and implemented by the European Council and the Council’. The intergovernmental method is used in decision-making on foreign affairs issues; the European Council is therefore a key forum for foreign affairs discussions at European Union (EU) level. The European Council also plays a crucial role as the EU’s crisis manager. Since 2009, the European Council has been operating in a permanent state of crisis – addressing economic, migration, foreign affairs and health crises – some simultaneously. These crises have varied in their cause as well as their impact on the EU. Some, even though external (e.g. Libya and Syria), had knock-on effects that impacted the European continent or were linked to other crises the EU faced (e.g. migration). The level of attention paid to and the type of response given at European Council level has therefore varied. As has been demonstrated since the institutionalisation of the European Council with the Treaty of Lisbon, when an urgent or sensitive decision needs to be taken at EU level, the European Council is the best equipped institution to do so (for example, during the sovereign debt crisis). This briefing analyses the European Council response to two conflicts involving third countries: Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine in February 2022 and the Israel-Hamas conflict in 2023. Although the two situations are very different and the backgrounds are quite complex, a comparison provides an opportunity to assess the role of the European Council as a crisis manager on the international scene. The escalation of both conflicts has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths, led to precarious humanitarian situations, and has had an impact on the EU to varying degrees. This paper focuses on the European Council’s response in the first three months of these crises. It considers the type of European Council meetings and their frequency, the agenda, the invitation letters, statements and conclusions, as well as European Council members’ visits to the territories involved in the conflict and the EU Member States’ votes on United Nations (UN) resolutions in relation to those conflicts.

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