Connect to share and comment

The EU foreign service is still a mystery

But some allege that it is being planned in secret.

On Thursday, heads of state were to receive a Swedish-prepared planning document on EEAS. “[I]t is of key importance that preparatory work should continue at full speed within the current format in the run up to the entry into force of the Treaty,” a draft of the document says.

Last week, in heated parliamentary debate on the EEAS, British Conservative Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Ashley Fox took the legislature to task for even considering a report on the EEAS prepared by German Christian Democratic MEP Elmar Brok, because such discussion "pre-empts the ratification of Lisbon."

Brok’s report, which was approved, emphasizes that parliament must be consulted and recommends that the EEAS budget be placed within the commission's budget and administration, which would give parliament some oversight. It stipulates that “political agreement be reached with Parliament on all issues at an early stage in order to avoid valuable time being wasted on political controversies about the form to be taken by the EEAS” but it concludes optimistically that upcoming Lisbon changes, including the EEAS, can help Europe become a “global player, not just global payer.”

Fox went on to speak against setting up the EEAS saying it is not a good use of funds and criticizing a recommendation in the Brok report for a special training operation for staffers of the new body. “A European diplomatic college is a waste of money and would become another burden on the taxpayer,” Fox argued. He insisted that any policy carried out by the corps would result from the agreement of heads of state in the Council, so it would merely represent another level of bureaucracy.

Fox’s fellow British MEP Andrew Brons, a member of the controversial British National Party, was considerably more alarmist. “It’s clear that this service is intended — not in the short term but in the long term — to take over and replace diplomatic representation of member states,” Brons said, going so far as to suggest Brussels might try to swallow “even the vetoes of the United Kingdom and France (as permanent members) on the United Nations Security Council.”

But the Swedish presidency, in the person of European Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmstroem, proclaimed that the EEAS is essential “so that European foreign policy can really become visible around the world.” Malmstrom defended the work of the Swedish presidency in laying out a blueprint for the service even without a Lisbon go-ahead, saying these were “just ideas” that the high representative can consider when he or she is chosen, probably in November.

External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner — who actually can say with certainty that her job will be subsumed by the new position of high representative — sounded a pleading note to skeptics. Creation of the EEAS, she said, “offers the EU the chance to indeed achieve what we have long hoped for: to have a common voice in the world, to strengthen the EU’s influence in the world.”