Since its founding in the post-Second World War years, the European Union has gradually expanded its foreign policy. Through a joint approach in foreign and security policies, EU member states have pursued concerted action to safeguard the fundamental interests, values, safety, independence, and integrity of the Union.
In its foreign and security policy, the EU has set itself the task of preserving peace, strengthening international security, and promoting international cooperation, as well as of developing and consolidating democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and basic freedoms.
In the 1970s the EU began providing worldwide humanitarian assistance to those in need and has since come to play a leading role in the field, particularly in development aid and emergency assistance following natural disasters, steering more than half of its global development aid to this area. In 1993, the EU established a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) within the framework of the Treaty of Maastricht to decide upon joint measures. Important decisions require unanimity by all member states in the European Council or the Council of the European Union. Under the Treaty of Lisbon (2009), responsibility for implementation of the CFSP is held by the European External Action Service (EEAS) under the leadership of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, as well as the diplomatic services of the EU member states.
Given the serious conflicts in the Balkans and Africa in the 1990s, the forging of a common defence policy increasingly became the focus of the CFSP. For this reason the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) was created as an integral part of the CFSP. It was later transferred to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in the Treaty of Lisbon (2009). Today, military troops or police forces may be deployed by the CSDP to carry out crisis management and peacekeeping missions. Currently, the EU is implementing 17 civilian and military peacekeeping missions aimed at capacity building in the army, police, customs and judiciary, where this is requested by the states concerned. In this context, the EU often works closely with international organisations and third countries. Switzerland is currently involved in the ‘EUFOR Althea’ military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the ‘EULEX’ civilian mission in Kosovo. The collaboration is selective and based on voluntary ad hoc agreements. It is compatible with Swiss neutrality. The prerequisite for participation in military CSDP missions is that there is a mandate from the UN or the OSCE.