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The role of the EU within the international arena


Specific Objectives and Competences

  • To understand the principles on which the foreign policy of the EU is based.
  • To discover the type of actions undertaken by the EU with respect to third party countries.
  • To identify weaknesses in the external actions of the EU.


  • The EU has become a relevant agent on the global scale, particularly through its commercial and monetary policy. However, it still remains a relatively unimportant political agent within the international arena, despite the efforts that it has made in this field.
  • These limitations have been a direct result of the lack of a single voice with regard to international policy. The creation of the figure of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy  through the Treaty of Amsterdam and of the European External Action Service by the Treaty of Lisbon, have not served to overcome these shortcomings.
  • In practice, the foreign policy of the EU and its defence essential remain competences of its individual member states. Any joint action within this field depends on the, sometimes difficult to achieve, consensus of the different member states.
  • The objective of the foreign policy of the EU is to guarantee security, stability, democracy and respect for human rights throughout the world.
  • The most important actions undertaken in the area of foreign affairs could be summarised as follows:
    • Crisis management (humanitarian actions, conflicts, natural disasters, etc.).
    • Humanitarian aid and development.
    • Technical assistance.
    • The fight against piracy at sea.
  • It may be possible to achieve a greater integration of the foreign and defence policy of the EU in the near future between a reduced group of countries working through what has been called enhanced cooperation 


From the video Is the EU a global nonentity? (fr and en with subtitles in bg, da, et, cs, de, el, es, en, fr, it, lv, lt, hu, mt, nl, pl, pt, ro, sl, sk, fi, sv, 1’31’’)

Discussing the need for the EU to become a really global agent at the international level.

Do you think that the EU has the political weight within the international arena that should correspond to its size?




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