The Notion of Solidarity in European Foreign Policy

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A. The 'Generating' Factor of Socialisation

The first time that the notion of solidarity appeared in connection with the area of foreign policy, in a legal text, was in the Preamble of the Single European Act (SEA). The EC heads of government recognised that Europe should

"…aim at speaking ever increasingly with one voice and to act with consistency and solidarity in order more effectively to protect its common interests and independence…".

(5th Recital of the Preamble of the Single European Act)

Few years later, solidarity was explicitly incorporated in the framework of the European foreign policy by the relevant provisions of the TEU that created the second pillar of CFSP. Article 11.2 declares that

"The Member states shall support the Union's external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity"

(TEU, Title V, Article 11.2 [ex Article J.1.2])

It is apparent that this reference to the notion of solidarity is far from clear in its meaning. Solidarity, in the way it is used in Article 11.2, constitutes a concept of general sense (Kouskouvelis 1995:45), which certainly does not establish any obligations to the member states exactly because of its vast conceptual generality19. What is certain, however, is that solidarity has existed as a value in both EPC and CFSP, either in the form of actual manifestation, either in the form of the manifestation's expectation. Its existence can be traced in the acquis politique as well as in the relevant Treaty provisions. But how and when was the value of solidarity actually generated?

As constructivists argue, common ideas, norms and expectations of agents develop gradually by a process of social interaction within a social setting. In the social setting of European foreign policy, social interaction has been cloaked in the term of 'socialisation'. Socialisation can be viewed as the collective process through which intersubjectively shared understandings supply codes to be drawn upon by diplomats when conducting common foreign policy (Glarbo 1999:646).

Socialisation can be primarily traced on informal elements of the structural design of European foreign policy. On an informal basis, socialisation has marked co-operation from its first steps. With very few rules of procedure, national politicians and diplomats developed special codes of conduct. As the 'insider' Nuttall argues and other writers confirm (Jörgensen 2002:213, Tonra 2000:2), even from the first years of the EPC national agents were constrained by no rules,

apart from the twin precepts of intergovernmentalism and consensus; beyond that they made their own rules. Their loyalties were divided: they felt not only commitment to the national interest, but also solidarity with their partners. This feeling of solidarity was only rarely the product of a cold calculation of reciprocal interest. It stemmed rather from the process of socialisation, the feeling of belonging to a club.

(2000:272, emphasis added)

In the history of European foreign policy, devotion to socialisation and the feeling of belonging to a club has been apparent even at a high political level, among foreign ministers and heads of governments. This is evident from the good or even 'special' personal links frequently forged, but also from the institutional arrangements set up for the comfort of such good personal relations (Glarbo 1999:647).

When an EU senior official responsible on CFSP issues was asked how he explains the existence of solidarity in European foreign policy, his answer could not be more similar to the mentioned above Nuttal's remarks. Solidarity is the product of the 'belonging in a club' feeling, as "when you are [referring to the agents] in such a relationship, you feel as a part of a club". (Interview, 20/02/2003). This feeling has been therefore the critical factor in the generation of the value of solidarity among the national agents, and subsequently, among the EU member states. In other words, the process of socialisation within the structure of European foreign policy, at a political and diplomatic level, had the effect -among others- of developing solidarity as a structural co-operation norm, leading ultimately to the generation of the intersubjective value of solidarity.

B. The Primacy of National Interest

The raison d'etre of European foreign policy has been the accommodation and promotion of the national interests of the EU member states. In all three crises, the behaviour of agents in the Council and its collective mechanisms was largely affected by considerations involving the concept of national interest. National interest can be detected in European foreign policy in two forms. Either in the form of 'common interest', which simply means the combination of all the member states national interests on a specific issue, either in the form of individual national interests of specific member states. In both cases, national interest is conceived as traditionally defined by Realism, i.e. rationally defined and of material nature interest.

At a large extent, decisions taken -or not taken- by the Council were in close connection with the significance for the EU member states of the state that the proclamation of solidarity was targeted against. From the three cases that we examined, Falklands crisis undisputedly constitutes the case in which solidarity was most firmly and effectively declared. The fact that the political and economic effects of the Council's proclamation were targeting Argentina is certainly not irrelevant to the firmness' extent of the proclamation itself. By declaring their solidarity towards the UK, the EC member states did jeopardise their economic interests which had not been of minor significance. Nevertheless, if we follow a more comparative approach things become a lot more clear. The overall significance of Argentina for the EC/EU member states in both economic and political terms, although not negligible, when compared with the relative importance of Turkey and Morocco -two states at the periphery of the Union- seems of a minor degree. Jeopardising their relations with Argentina harmed the national interests of the EC member states, but at the same time it did not harm their vital national interests, as Argentina had a comparatively limited overall significance for these states.

Both in Imia and Perejil crisis, the generally acknowledged reluctance of the Council and its mechanisms to proclaim their solidarity towards Greece and Spain, was an immediate result of the increased political and economic significance of Turkey and Morocco respectively. In Imia crisis, solidarity towards Greece was proclaimed by the General Affairs Council five months after the crisis had ended, and when that happened, the text adopted revealed the will of the EU member states to keep the distances from the two opposing sides as much as possible. It is certainly not irrelevant that few months before the crisis took place, Turkey had signed a Custom's Union agreement with the EU. A firm and 'harsh' EU stance would jeopardise the implementation of the agreement20 and would provoke negative reactions from the side of Turkey, a country of major political and economic significance for the EU member states.

In Perejil crisis, the Council did not eventually declare its solidarity towards Spain, as the EU member states did not wish to be drawn into a major conflict with a country that the EU had recently developed close relations. Especially, as it gradually appeared that the crisis had also evoked feelings in the Arab world. The profound disapproval by several member states of the Commission's stance on the issue, which ultimately led to the abandonment of this stance, must be also seen in this context.

Having traced the importance of the -traditionally defined- EU common interests in our cases, we need also to detect the impact of the individual national interests of certain member states in each crisis. In Falklands crisis, the common stance in affirming the EC's solidarity towards the UK collapsed after a month from its adoption. Ireland and Italy withdrew their support for this stance, because their national interests obliged them to do so. By participating in the decision for the declaration of solidarity, Ireland had actually violated its traditionally proclaimed neutrality and Italy endangered its special and historical relations with Argentina. The initial will of the Irish and Italian diplomats and politicians to declare their support towards the UK -generated by the forces of socialisation- could not be sustained for long against the imperatives of the national interest. In Imia crisis, it was the UK that vetoed a Council's declaration which would condemn Turkey's provocative action in the Aegean, a stance which can be explained by the fact that the UK has been traditionally the most close ally of Turkey in the EU. Finally, in Perejil crisis, France's decision to block the adoption of a solidarity declaration was the immediate result of the close political and economic links of France with its former colony. If in European foreign policy "solidarity is the exception rather than the rule" as Hill assumes (quoted in White 2001:31), the reason for that is the increased ability of the traditionally defined national interest to influence the agents' behaviour.

C. The 'Triggering' Factor of Personal Links

In the overall structure of European foreign policy, the balance between the primacy of national interest and the degree of influential impact of the intersubjective value of solidarity has been highly defined by the 'triggering' factor of personal links. By personal links we are referring to bilateral personal relations between agents at a political and diplomatic level. Although personal links are an indispensable generating part of the process of socialisation, they do not necessarily entail the aspect of collectiveness. Therefore, they can be better viewed as the product of interaction at a bilateral level between the agents of the state facing the external threat at one side, and the agents of the other member states and EU institutions. As solidarity is an immediate product of a social process, i.e. socialisation, it comes to no surprise that the social abilities and capacities of agents for bilateral interaction are the critical factors in its activation.

The importance of personal links as a decisive variable is enhanced in cases that involve key national agents. Agents, who are attributed with the role of representing the Union's position as a whole, have a central role in the decision-making process, and at the same time can act independently of the Council. As key national agents are considered the politicians and diplomats of the country that holds the Presidency of the Council. In the structure of European foreign policy, the Presidency maintains the formal role of representing the Union's position in issues related to foreign policy21 and as practice has shown at the past, it has also a certain degree of autonomy in exercising this role. In addition, the Presidency is attributed with the crucial task of consensus building and of co-ordinating the work of the Council and its mechanisms. These roles explain the significance of the Presidency agents in the potential activation of the value of solidarity.

In both Falkland and Perejil crises the decisive factor in the activation of the value of solidarity, was the existence of strong personal links between key national agents. In Falklands crisis, the Belgian Presidency of the Council did everything it could to promote and facilitate actions condemning the Argentinean act of aggression. Its actions proved to be highly effective because of its crucial co-ordinating functions. The Belgians did not only work in the context of the collective mechanisms of the Council but they even took the initiative to restate the Council's first reaction to the crisis, by explicitly this time manifesting the EC's solidarity towards the UK. In Perejil crisis, it was the Danish Presidency that declared its "full solidarity" towards Spain and although it did so on the name of the European Union, in their actions the Danes had reportedly acted independently and without consulting the other member states -except Spain of course. Moreover, it was the Danish Presidency that proposed a text on a 'solidarity declaration', working also together with Spain for its promotion when the issue reached COPS.

In both occasions, the eagerness of the Presidencies in the promotion of the value of solidarity was the immediate result of the fact that the previous states to hold the presidency were the states that were facing the external threat. The Belgian Presidency of the first semester of 1982 succeeded the British preceding Presidency and the Danish Presidency of the second semester of 2002 succeeded the Spanish Presidency. Between the national politicians and diplomats of the two sets of Presidencies close co-operation at an informal and formal22 basis had been developed and strong personal links were forged. Strong personal links allowed the UK and Spain in Falklands and Perejil crises respectively, to exploit the representative, co-ordinative and potentially independent role of the Presidency in European foreign policy.

If in Falklands and Perejil crises the existence of 'special' personal links enabled the expression of solidarity, in Imia crisis it was their lack that prevented such an expression by the Italian Presidency. A new government in Greece was formed just few days before the crisis was diplomatically and militarily escalated. During the critical days of the escalation, the mechanisms and actors of the European foreign policy were 'sleeping', as the US Assistant Secretary of State illustratively described the EU's stance on the issue. This was an immediate result of weak personal links between the Greek political agents at a high political level and key agents from the side of the EU. As a diplomat put it, there was virtually a "political lacuna" at the high ranks of the Greek government, in the sense that the "recently appointed Greek Foreign Minister simply did not have the easiness to call his EU partners and ask for their solidarity" (Interview, 19/02/2003). The 'special' role of the Presidency was not therefore exploited. Even after the end of the crisis, the Italian Presidency kept very carefully almost equal distances between the two rivals.

V. Conclusion:

The Merits of a Realist-Constructivist Synthesis

Throughout the study, conceptual elements of the IR theories of Realism and Constructivism were employed in a deliberate effort to combine the explanatory powers of both theories. This synthesis has been seen as the most adequate way to investigate aspects of the notion of solidarity in European foreign policy. But even most importantly, the explanatory capacities of a realist-constructivist theoretical synthesis are not confined solely to our specific inquiry topic. On the contrary, such a theoretical approach provides the analyst with the adequate examination instrument to comprehend the unique nature of European foreign policy. Its ability to assess the fundamental characteristics of intergovernmental co-operation, as well as to trace the generation and impact of other influential elements inside the social structure of this co-operation, allows it to constitute an ideal and manifold theoretical framework for the study of this unique policy field. A theoretical framework, which can be broadly used to comprehend and explain many of the puzzles and aspects of the complex process of European foreign policy, exactly because of its ability to detect the fundamental underpinnings of this process.


  1. Books & Articles

  1. Literature in English

Arabic News, (17/07/2002) "Leila Islet: Organization of Islamic Conference, Arab League Voice their Solidarity with Morocco",

Bretherton Charlotte, Vogler John, (1999) "The European Union as a Global Actor", London, Routledge

Checkel T. Jeffrey [a], (1998) "The Constructivist Turn in International Relations Theory", European Journal of International Relations, vol.50, no.2, pp. 324-348

----------, [b], (1998) "Norms Institutions and National Identity in Contemporary Europe", Working Paper, ARENA, Oslo, University of Oslo

De Vree J.K., Coffey P., Lauwaars R.H., (1987) "Towards a European Foreign Policy: Legal, Economic and Political Dimensions", Dordrecht, Martinus Nujhoff Publishers

Diaspora, (01/03/1996) "Greek Diplomatic Offensive in Europe", number 47, volume III,

Edwards Geoffrey, (1984) "Europe and the Falklands Islands Crisis 1982", Journal of Common Market Studies, vol.22, no.4, pp.285.313

Ericson Magnus, (2000) "A Realist Stable Peace: Power, Threat and the Development of a Shared Norwegian-Swedih Democratic Security Identity 1905-1940", Lund, Department of Political Science

Forster Anthony, Wallace William, (1996) "Common Foreign and Security Policy", In Wallace Helen, Wallace William, "Policy-Making in the European Union", Oxford, Oxford University Press

Freedman Lawrence, (1982) "The War of the Falkland's Islands, 1982", Foreign Affairs, Fall 1982, pp.196-210

Gibran K. Daniel, (1998) "The Falkland's War: Britain versus the Past in the South Atlantic", London, McFarland

Glarbo Kenneth, (1999) "Wide-awake Diplomacy: Reconstructing the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union", Journal of European Public Policy, 6:4 Special Issue, pp..634-51

Jörgensen Knud Erik, (2002) "Making the CFSP Work", In Peterson John, Shackleton Michael, "The Institutions of the European Union", Oxford, Oxford University Press, ch.10

Ifestos Panayiotis, (1987) "European Political Cooperation: Towards a Framework of Supranational Diplomacy?", Aldershot, Avebury

Macedonian Press Agency (MPA), (07/02/1996) "European Commission offers Verbal Support to Greece",

----------, (02/02/1996) "Turkey's Territorial Demands are Intolerable, says Santers",

Marias A. Epaminondas, (1994) "Solidarity as an Objective of the European Union and the European Community", Legal Issues of European Integration, v.2, pp. 85-114

Monar Jörg, (2002) "The CFSP and the Leila/Perejil Island Incident: The Nemesis of Solidarity and Leadership", European Foreign Affairs Review, v.7, pp. 251-255

Moravcsik A., (1999) "Is Something Rotten in the State of Denmark? Constructivism and European Integration", Journal of European Public Policy, vol.6, no.5, pp. 669-81

Mulay-Shah Aziz, (2001) "Kantian Dreams: A Constructivist Critique of Mainstream Research on Political Cooperation Within Europe", Paper Presented at the Graduate Workshop of the Jean Monnet Centre for European Studies, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, 22-25 April 2001

Nuttall J. Simon, (1992) "European Political Co-operation", Oxford, Clarendon Press

----------, (2000) "European Foreign Policy", Oxford, Oxford University Press

Pijpers Alfred, Elfriede Regelsberger, Wessels Wolfang (eds), (1988) "European Political Cooperation in the 1980's: a Common Foreign Policy for Western Europé?", Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers

Pollack A. Mark, (2001) "International Relations Theory and European Integration", Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 39, no. 2, pp 221-44

Sharp Paul, "Thatcher's Diplomacy: the Reviaval of British Foreign Policy", London, Macmillan Press

Smith E. Michael, (2000) "Conforming to Europe; the Domestic Impact of EU Foreign Policy Co-operation", Journal of European Public Policy, 7:4, October, pp. 613-31

Tonra Ben, (1999) "Social Constructivism and the Common Foreign and Security Policy", Conference Paper, Workshop on Social Constructivism and European Studies, Ebeltoft, Denmark

----------, (2000) "Committees in Common: Comitology and the Common Foreign and Security Policy", Book Chapter included in Christiansen Thomas, Kirchner Emil (eds), "Administering the New Europe: Committee Governance in the European Union", Manchester, Manchester University Press, ch.10

Trondal Jarle, (2001) "Is there any Social Constructivist-Institutionalist Divide? Unpacking Social Mechanisms affecting Representational Roles among EU Decision Makers", Journal of European Public Policy, vol.8:1, February, pp. 1-23

Wagner Wolfgang, (2000), "Foreign policy Capacities and State Preferences on CFSP: Assessing the Rationalist Explanation of German, French and British CFSP Policies", Paper presented at the ECPR Summer School, Geneva, August 28-September 9, 2000

White Brian, (2001) "Understanding European Foreign Policy", Houndmills, Palgrave

Winnerstig Michael, (1996) "Shared Values or Power Politics?: Transatlantic Security Relations 1981-94", Stockholm, Swedish Institute for International Affairs
2. Literature in Greek
Group Research, (1996) "A Hot Winter: a Record of the Imia Crisis", Thessaloniki, University of Macedonia [in original - Ομαδική Έρευνα, (1996) "Ένας Καυτός Χειμώνας: Χαρτογράφηση της Κρίσης στην Ίμια", Θεσσαλονίκη, Πανεπιστήμιο Μακεδονίας]

Kourkoulas Alkis, (1997) "Imia: a Critical Approach of the Turkish Factor", Athens Sideris [in original - Κούρκουλας Άλκης, (1997) "Ίμια: Κριτική Προσέγγιση του Τουρκικού Παράγοντα", Αθήνα, Σιδέρης]

Kartalis Yiannis, (2002) "Perejil and Imia: Spain is not Greece. Two Standards exist in International Relations", TO VIMA, 21-07-2002, p. 20 [in original - Καρτάλης Γιάννης, (2002) "Περεχίλ και Ίμια: Η Ισπανία δεν είναι Ελλάδα. Δύο Μέτρα και Δύο Σταθμά επικρατούν στις Διεθνείς Σχέσεις", ΤΟ ΒΗΜΑ, 21-07-2002, σ.20]

Kouskouvelis I. Ilias, (1995) "Diplomacy and Strategy of the European Union", Athens, Papazisis [in original - Κουσκουβέλης Ι. Ηλίας, (1995) "Διπλωματία και Στρατηγική της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης", Αθήνα, Παπαζήσης]

Ntouskos D. Petros, (1996) "The New World Order, European Union and the Issue of National Independence", Athens, Gutenberg [in original - Ντούσκος Δ. Πέτρος, (1996) "Η Νέα Διεθνής Τάξη Πραγμάτων η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση και το ζήτημα της Εθνικής Κύριαρχίας, Αθήνα, Gutenberg"]

  1. Documents

Bulletin EC 4-1982, (1982) "Community Solidarity in the Falklands Conflict", pp 7-8

CFSP Statement, (14/07/2002) "EU Presidency Declaration on the Island of Perejil", Brussels

London Report (Report on European Political Cooperation), Adopted by the Foreign Ministers of the EC member states at London, 19 Oct. 1981, In De Vree et al., (1987) "Towards a European Foreign Policy: Legal, Economic and Political Dimensions", Dordrecht, Martinus Nujhoff Publishers, pp. 353-9
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