Written by Naja Bentzen and Beatrix Immenkamp,

Flags of European Union with world map made of clouds against European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium
© artjazz / Fotolia

For the past 40 years, Members of the European Parliament have been working at boosting Parliament’s role in EU foreign policy. These efforts have continued to be stepped up since the launch of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) in 1993. Over recent decades, the European Parliament has significantly raised its profile as a credible moral force with strong focus on strengthening human rights, supporting democracy and enhancing the rule of law worldwide.

Perhaps less visible than the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, the European Parliament’s democracy support activities are part of its ‘soft-power’ approach to international relations. Moreover, Parliament can convey messages through channels that are different from, and complementary to, those employed by the EU’s traditional diplomatic players; for example, through its parliamentary networks.

Parliament also enjoys Treaty-based information and consultation rights, which allow its Members to shape the EU’s external policies. In addition, the European Parliament has become a public forum for debating with representatives of partner countries and international organisations, as well as influential non-state actors. MEPs pro-actively engage in inter-parliamentary delegations and missions to third countries as well as joint parliamentary assemblies. Moreover, parties in different countries often share strong links via their political families.

Read the complete briefing on ‘The European Parliament’s evolving soft power – From back-door diplomacy to agenda-setting: Democracy support and mediation‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.