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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Petersberg tasks

The Petersberg tasks were adopted in June 1992 at a ministerial council of the Western European Union (WEU) which was held at the Petersberg Hotel near Bonn. On that occasion, the Member States of the WEU declared that they were prepared to make available to the WEU military units from the whole range of their conventional forces with a view to carrying out military tasks under the authority of the WEU.

In addition to contributing towards collective defence within the context of the application of Article 5 of the Treaty of Washington and Article 5 of the Treaty of Brussels as amended, the military units of the Member States of the WEU may be employed for:

  • Humanitarian and rescue tasks;
  • Peacekeeping tasks;
  • Tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking.

These tasks are now expressly included in Article 17 of the EU Treaty and form an integral part of the European Security and Defence Policy.

PHARE (Community Aid Programme for Central and Eastern European Countries)

PHARE is the European Union financial instrument set up in 1989 to assist Central and Eastern European countries in their transition towards democratic government and a market economy. It encourages investment, knowledge transfer and general technical support. The programme enables a strategy for pre-accession to the European Union to be implemented.

With the entry of eight Central and Eastern European countries into the Union on 1 May 2004, only Bulgaria and Romania can participate in projects launched after 2003. PHARE covers two main areas of action:

  • “strengthening the institutional capacity" covers approximately 30% of the total budget;
  • “investment aid", covering the remaining 70%, aims to provide technical and financial support in priority sectors: alignment with the Community norms and practices, economic and social cohesion, development of infrastructures, SMEs and regional development.

Pillars of the European Union

The European Union as we know it today was established by the Maastricht Treaty, which came into effect on 1 November 1993. The term “European Union" covers three areas of competence, usually known as the three pillars: the European Communities, Cooperation on Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and cooperation on home affairs and justice. Therefore, the Community is not only economic but also deals with new areas of cooperation which should enable it to overcome the political deficit from which it suffered in the past. The three pillars are differentiated by their decision-making procedures and the role that the Community institutions play in them.

The first pillar encompasses all the common policies (particularly the Common Agricultural Policy, Monetary Policy, Transport Policy and Common Trade Policy). Under these policies, the institutions play a full role and the Community decision-making procedures apply. This pillar encompasses policies with a variable degree of communitisation (degree of transfer of powers from a Member State to the Community). So the Common Agriculture Policy, Trade Policy, Transport Policy, Competition Policy or Monetary Policy are highly integrated. However, the Economic and Social Cohesion Policy, and the Policies on Education, Culture and Social Protection and Employment are competences with lower degrees of integration, where Member States still have prerogatives.

The second pillar represents the intergovernmental cooperation system in the field of foreign, security and defence policy. The decisions are made by the foreign ministers.

The third pillar covers intergovernmental cooperation on justice and home affairs. Here, the decisions are taken by the ministers for home affairs and justice.

Within the first pillar, in particular, the European institutions have normative powers, i.e. the right to establish the legal documents and to legislate. Within the third pillar, the Council may take framework decisions on harmonisation. The Treaty of Amsterdam reinforced the possibilities for the Court of Justice of the European Community to deal with questions in the third pillar.

In order to simplify the decision-making system within the Union, the draft Constitution proposes eliminating the pillar structure. All the policies of the former pillars would then be exclusively an area for action by the Union and not by the intergovernmental procedure. Even if certain Community principles govern the whole of the Constitutional Treaty, the Community method would not apply to all of its provisions.

Police and judicial cooperation on criminal matters

The police and judicial cooperation on criminal matters is governed by the third pillar of the European Union, created by the Maastricht Treaty and amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam.

The provisions of the Treaty of Amsterdam aim to create an area of freedom, security and justice. The objective is to offer citizens a high level of protection by preventing and combating racism and xenophobia as well as cross-border crime, and in particular:

  • terrorism;
  • trade in human beings and crimes against children;
  • drugs trafficking;
  • arms trafficking;
  • corruption and fraud.

This objective will be attained through:

  • closer cooperation between police forces and the customs authorities via the European Police Office (Europol);
  • closer cooperation between the judicial authorities, including via the European Justice Cooperation Unit (Eurojust), which was established under the Nice Treaty;
  • approximation, where necessary, of the rules of the criminal law of the Member States.

The decision-making process in this field largely functions in accordance with the intergovernmental method: the governments of the Member States decide unanimously and without any real intervention by the Parliament, the Commission and the Court. However, the Treaty of Amsterdam provides that certain decisions could be taken by a qualified majority and in co-decision with the Parliament, if the Fifteen decide this by a unanimous vote.

Moreover, the Schengen acquis, developed by some Member States in an intergovernmental framework, and also dealing with police and judicial cooperation, was integrated into the framework of the Union and the European Community when the Treaty of Amsterdam came into force.

Political and Security Committee (PSC)

The Political and Security Committee (PSC) monitors international developments in the field of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), contributes towards defining policies and oversees their implementation. Under the authority of the Council, it exercises political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations.

The PSC consists mainly of national representatives, and is at the heart of crisis management activities. To ensure its smooth running, it is assisted by a Politico-Military Group, a Committee for Civil Aspects of Crisis Management and the Military Committee and Military Staff.

Presidency of the Union

The Presidency of the Union is held by the Member State which holds the Presidency of the Council. It is arranged on the basis of a six-monthly rotation system in a predetermined order. Apart from chairing the Council meetings, the tasks of the President involve preparing the Council’s work programme, contacting other states and representing the European Union and the rest of the world.

This page was last modified on : 29-12-2004

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