European Foreign Policy
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European Foreign Policy

Legal and Political Perspectives

Edited by Panos Koutrakos

Written by leading experts, this book focuses on central issues of the foreign policy of the European Union. The issues explored include: • how the EU’s judges understand its relationship with the international order; • the coherence of the Union’s external action; • the EU’s approach to its neighbours; • the Common Security and Defence Policy; and, • the EU’s participation in international organisations.
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Chapter 1: Consistency, coherence and European Union external action: the path to Lisbon and beyond

Simon Duke


Simon Duke INTRODUCTION The idea of coherence in the EU’s external relations is one referred to frequently by both political scientists and legal scholars although, all too often, other associated terms such as ‘consistency’, and even ‘cooperation’ are also in common usage.1 The aim of this chapter is to give an overview of coherence from a predominantly political science perspective. In the spirit of the interdisciplinary workshop that sparked this volume, this author does not believe that the issues surrounding coherence can be explained by a solely legalistic approach or only a political science grounded analysis, but an admixture of these and other approaches.2 A legal approach will often lead to different, but not necessarily tangential recommendations from those who approach the issues from a political science angle. In the case of the former, it may well result in the advocacy of the need for some form of binding coherence requirements, while in the latter case it is more likely to result in more attention being paid to institutions, processes and decision-making procedures to address perceived incoherence.3 As adroitly observed by Clara Portela and Kolja Raube, ‘coherence emerges thus as a principle understood as a legal procedural obligation to be followed by political action’.4 1 The word consistency is, however, preferred since in the English language versions of the treaties reference is more often than not made to ‘consistency’, whereas in many other languages, such as French or German, reference is made to ‘coherence’. 2 See: Trybus, M. and White,...

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