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Sometimes Speaking with a Single Voice

The European Community as an International Actor, 1969–1979


Lorenzo Ferrari

In the late 1960s, the European Community was a loose association of countries focusing on economic matters. By the late 1970s, it had become a real international actor: member states had started to coordinate their foreign policies, the EC had joined the United Nations and the G7, and it had established direct relations with almost all of the world’s countries. What happened in those years?
This book provides the first comprehensive historical account of the early phase of the EC member states’ cooperation in international affairs. Community activities, the European Political Cooperation and the European Council are all considered, relying on a wide range of archival sources. Why did the EC member states decide to cooperate in international affairs? How did they do it, and in which domains? What idea of Europe as an actor on the global stage did they put forward?
As the author shows, the EC stressed its own profile as a «force for good» in international affairs – especially with regard to development cooperation, the reform of the international system, and human rights promotion. In the early phase of the EC’s international activity one can find the origins of many traits – and flaws – of the EU’s foreign policy nowadays.
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Chapter 1: Internal Institutional Developments, 1969-72


← 40 | 41 →CHAPTER 1

Internal Institutional Developments, 1969-72

In order to enable the EC to act on the global stage, it was essential to endow it with appropriate institutions and legal competences. After the relaunch of the EC’s international activity in 1969, discussions and negotiations between the European actors mostly focused on institutional design matters. Who would be in control of the EC’s international activity? Who would deal with foreign actors on its behalf? What role should the Community institutions play? To what an extent should member states preserve their foreign policy autonomy? These were important debates, because the institutional design would directly affect the character and import of the EC’s international activity, as well as decide the kind of actors involved in it. At the same time, these were also complex and controversial debates. They were very closely related to other developments concerning the economic and political integration of Western Europe, which the EC member states had very different preferences towards. In particular, states held divergent visions of the definitive form that European political integration should take.

In this chapter I focus on the developments of the EC’s international activity which occurred between The Hague Summit in 1969 and the Paris Summit in 1972. First I analyze the establishment of the European Political Cooperation system, which was the first and main forum for the discussion of international political affairs at the EC level. Then I analyze the debates surrounding the exact nature of...

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