Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 03/2015

Are Prime Ministers Taking Over EU Foreign Policy?

Stefan Lehne

February 2015

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Foreign ministers have lost influence in recent decades, and prime ministers have emerged as the central foreign policy actors. Mirroring this development, the European Council, which convenes the European Union's (EU) heads of state and government, has become the top decisionmaker on EU foreign policy. But the European Council's approach to external affairs lacks coherence, continuity, and ambition. The Brussels leadership team that took over in late 2014 should significantly upgrade the European Council's role in this area and, through that body, energize the EU's other foreign policy institutions.