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BOOK REVIEW: The Making of an EU Common Foreign Policy between Law and Geopolitics

- Reviewed book: EU Common Foreign and Security Policy After Lisbon. Between Law and Geopolitics / Luigi Lonardo, Springer, 2023, 162 p., ISBN 978-3-031-19130-5 (pbk); 978-3-031-19131-2 (ebk)

- By Irene Rusconi


For a supranational organization like the European Union (EU), defining a common foreign and security policy is extremely challenging, owing to specific security interests and needs that are unique and different from one EU member state to another. Thus, the capability of harmonizing the variegated ‘geopolitics’ of the EU and its member states within a unitary legal framework stumbles. The aim of the book EU Common Foreign and Security Policy After Lisbon is precisely to ‘conceptualise the interaction between law and geopolitics’ (2) at the EU level, especially in the aftermath of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty.

The geopolitical context is responsible for the genesis and design of the CFSP, including both the creation of its predecessor in the 1970s and the formalization of the CFSP in the Maastricht Treaty. However, the geopolitical context profoundly changed due to the 2004 ‘big bang’ enlargement. Still, this change did not result in a revolution – or at least in a modernization – of the EU law in the Lisbon Treaty. Eventually, the striking importance of geopolitics became manifest with the massive shock of Russia’s war against Ukraine in 2022 and the crumbling of the security architecture in Europe. Geopolitics now drives the daily implementation, operation and functioning of a CFSP whose legal apparatus appears increasingly obsolete (11).

In the book, Luigi Lonardo - a lecturer in EU law at University College Cork, Ireland, and a visiting lecturer in European Foreign Security and Defence Policy at Sciences Po in Paris – identifies and analyses asymmetrical geopolitical interests as a key feature of CFSP, due to heterogeneous foreign policy interests of each member state. Subsequently, new EU memberships create greater difficulty in achieving coherence and unanimity in CFSP because of more varied national security preferences. The consequences of 2004/2007 enlargement are evident when considering that this led to the inclusion of 12 new member states (out of 27).

Similarly to asymmetrical geopolitical interests, EU foreign policy law is not unitary. While forming alliances, concluding trade agreements and appointing ambassadors are traditionally regarded as part of national diplomacy, the EU legislation on foreign relations draws a peculiar distinction, which is embodied in the articulated institutional mechanism, limited Court involvement and unanimous decision-making. It serves as a means of keeping foreign security and defence policy cooperation separate from economic integration. Although the Lisbon Treaty formally redesigned the CFSP, the changes did not alter the substance of the EU’s powers to conduct security and defence policy.

Lonardo highlights the persisting misalignment between geopolitics and law at the EU level: if “geopolitics contributes to asymmetry and fragmentation of preferences, [...] EU law requires, as a rule, unanimity; [while] geopolitics requires a unified and coherent diplomatic response, [...] EU law mandates to distinguish between CFSP and other external action competences” (145). Yet, the author points out that the EU cannot afford such a mismatch between law and geopolitics – especially considering its future geopolitical dimension. The 2022 Ukrainian crisis has reactivated EU enlargement, what has been called the external action policy sleeping beauty. Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia sent their official applications – out of which only the first two were granted candidate status, along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had applied in 2016 – while North Macedonia and Albania saw their negotiations open after being granted a candidate status in 2005 and 2009 respectively. With the future EU including over 30 countries, the gap between law and geopolitics may widen even further, unless the prospect of a new Treaty is contemplated – as emphasized by the author.

Overall, the book stands as a useful tool for law students and scholars to delve deeper into the interaction between law and geopolitics. Understanding how the CFSP law should suit the geopolitical characteristics of the EU’s members is precisely the author’s goal, who – although not offering explicit solutions – also provides external non-legal benchmarks on which to rely to better implement the CFSP law, by including features which have not been considered so far.


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