The Lisbon enigma: crisis management and coherence in the European Union


Before the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon, the several crisis management tools at the European Union's disposal were divided between two institutions: the European Commission and the European Council. The commission represented the community (the first pillar), and the council the intergovernmental systems (the second pillar).

The creation of a new post of High Representative of the Union and the institution of a new External Action Service are intended to put an end to this commission-council dualism. The target of the reforms is clear: providing the EU with the capacity to adopt a comprehensive approach linking its several assets (including the military one) under a common, coherent, crisis management approach.

In reality the new provisions build a bridge between the competences of the commission and of the council. In particular, the coherence problem has been tackled by reinforcing the intergovernmental nature of the union’s external action, to the detriment of the community and supranational dimension.

However, several unanswered questions surround the Lisbon treaty, which show that the problem of coherence is still far from solved. The result is that beyond Europe’s borders, the commission could become now a two-headed creature.