European Political Co-operation
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European Political Co-operation

The European Political Co-operation (EPC) was introduced in 1970 and was the synonym for European Union foreign policy coordination until it was superseded by the Common Foreign and Security Policy in the Maastricht Treaty of November 1993.


In the 1950s and 1960s, the EC member states tried twice to give the internal market a foreign policy dimension but failed on both attempts.


The idea of the supranational European Defence Community came about following a summit in The Hague (1969) in which the EC heads of state and government instructed their foreign ministers to "study the best way of achieving progress in the matter of political unification, within the context of enlargement."[1] The foreign ministers subsequently drafted the Luxembourg/Davignon report (1970), which created an informal intergovernmental consultation mechanism where member states could achieve "politics of scale" (Ginsberg, 1989).

While EPC adopted the intergovernmental nature of the Fouchet Plans, it disregarded the 'French grandeur' of the Charles de Gaulle era. The involvement of the United Kingdom guaranteed its Atlanticist nature. The European Commission would furthermore be able to express its opinion if matters within its competencies were concerned. Finally, the EPC did not have the strong Paris-based Secretariat of the Fouchet proposals. The Netherlands had always been anxious about this idea, as they thought that it might turn into a competitor for the European Commission.


The EPC was amended and strengthened in the Copenhagen report (1973) and London report (1981). It was codified (formalized) with the Single European Act (1986).

The EPC turned out to be a "mixed success." During the 1970s, it was an active player in the Middle East conflict and in the creation of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, the predecessor of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The Soviet-Afghan War (1979) and the handling of the Yugoslav Wars (1991-1995), however, showed the weakness of the EPC.

Transformation into the Common Foreign and Security Policy

The EPC was superseded by the Common Foreign and Security Policy in the Maastricht Treaty of November 1993.

Since the end of World War II, sovereign European countries have entered into treaties and thereby co-operated and harmonised policies (or pooled sovereignty) in an increasing number of areas, in the so-called European integration project or the construction of Europe (French: la construction européenne). The following timeline outlines the legal inception of the European Union (EU)--the principal framework for this unification. The EU inherited many of its present responsibilities from the European Communities (EC), which were founded in the 1950s in the spirit of the Schuman Declaration.

S: signing
F: entry into force
T: termination
E: expiry
  de facto supersession
Rel. w/ EC/EU framework:
 de facto inside
                  Flag of Europe.svg European Union (EU) [Cont.]  
Flag of Europe.svg European Communities (EC) (Pillar I)
European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) [Cont.]      
Flag of the European Coal and Steel Community 6 Star Version.svg / Flag of the European Coal and Steel Community 9 Star Version.svg / Flag of the European Coal and Steel Community 10 Star Version.svg / Flag of the European Coal and Steel Community 12 Star Version.svg European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)  
    European Economic Community (EEC)    
            Schengen Rules European Community (EC)
'TREVI' Justice and Home Affairs (JHA, pillar II)  
  Flag of NATO.svg North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) [Cont.] Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC, pillar II)
Flag of France.svg Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
Anglo-French alliance
[Defence arm handed to NATO] European Political Co-operation (EPC)   Common Foreign and Security Policy
(CFSP, pillar III)
Flag of the Western Union.svg Western Union (WU) Flag of the Western European Union (1993-1995).svg / Flag of the Western European Union.svg Western European Union (WEU) [Tasks defined following the WEU's 1984 reactivation handed to the EU]
[Social, cultural tasks handed to CoE] [Cont.]                
    Flag of Europe.svg Council of Europe (CoE)
¹Although not EU treaties per se, these treaties affected the development of the EU defence arm, a main part of the CFSP. The Franco-British alliance established by the Dunkirk Treaty was de facto superseded by WU. The CFSP pillar was bolstered by some of the security structures that had been established within the remit of the 1955 Modified Brussels Treaty (MBT). The Brussels Treaty was terminated in 2011, consequently dissolving the WEU, as the mutual defence clause that the Lisbon Treaty provided for EU was considered to render the WEU superfluous. The EU thus de facto superseded the WEU.
²The treaties of Maastricht and Rome form the EU's legal basis, and are also referred to as the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), respectively. They are amended by secondary treaties.
³The European Communities obtained common institutions and a shared legal personality (i.e. ability to e.g. sign treaties in their own right).
?Between the EU's founding in 1993 and consolidation in 2009, the union consisted of three pillars, the first of which were the European Communities. The other two pillars consisted of additional areas of cooperation that had been added to the EU's remit.
?The consolidation meant that the EU inherited the European Communities' legal personality and that the pillar system was abolished, resulting in the EU framework as such covering all policy areas. Executive/legislative power in each area was instead determined by a distribution of competencies between EU institutions and member states. This distribution, as well as treaty provisions for policy areas in which unanimity is required and qualified majority voting is possible, reflects the depth of EU integration as well as the EU's partly supranational and partly intergovernmental nature.
?Plans to establish a European Political Community (EPC) were shelved following the French failure to ratify the Treaty establishing the European Defence Community (EDC). The EPC would have combined the ECSC and the EDC.

See also



Highly recommended reading

  • Nuttall, S.J. (1992), European Political Co-operation, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Smith, M.E. (2004), Europe's Foreign and Security Policy: The Institutionalization of Cooperation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Further reading

  • Allen, D., Rummel, R. & Wessels, W. (1982), European Political Cooperation: Towards a Foreign Policy for Western Europe, London: Butterworth Scientific.
  • Ginsberg, R.H. (1989), Foreign Policy Actions of the European Community: The Politics of Scale, Boulder: Lynne Rienner.
  • Holland, M. (ed.) (1991), The Future of European Political Cooperation: Essays in Theory and Practice, Basingstoke: Macmillan.
  • Pijpers, A. et al. (eds.), European Political Cooperation in the 1980s: A Common Foreign Policy for Western Europe?, Dordrecht: M. Nijhoff.
  • Regelsberger, E., De Schoutheete de Tervarent, P. & Wessels, W. (eds.) (1997), Foreign Policy of the European Union: From EPC to CFSP and Beyond, London: Lynne Rienner.
  • Smith, H. (2002), European Union Foreign Policy: What it is and What is Does London: Pluto Press.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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