Sunday

23rd Feb 2020

Turkey and China host biggest EU outposts

Staff numbers at embassies highlight EU interest in Turkey, China, the Western Balkans and in multilateral bodies, as well as member states' ongoing reliance on bilateral diplomacy.

The EU's top 10 delegations in terms of staff numbers are: Ankara (137), Beijing/Hong Kong (116), Moscow (102), Belgrade (100), Ramallah/Tel Aviv (97), Kiev (93), Sarajevo (92), New Delhi (87), Washington (86) and Nairobi (85).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Ashton arriving in China last October (Photo: ec.eruopa.eu)

The EU also has 187 people posted to various branches of the UN, the WTO, the African Union, the OECD economic club and democracy watchdogs the OSCE and the Council of Europe.

One year after the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS), big member states still outgun EU institutions in diplomatic firepower.

The UK has 270 people in Washington, 245 in Beijing and 230 in Moscow. France has 421 in Washington, 305 in Beijing and 224 in the Russian capital. When it comes to lobbying EU institutions and Nato, the US has 650 staff in Brussels.

The numbers do not tell the whole story.

Member states' embassies include diplomats and consular staff. The EU does not do consular work, while its delegations house both EEAS and European Commission people, who take care of enlargement and development aid.

In prospective EU entrants and in poor countries EEAS diplomats are outnumbered by commission officials. In Turkey, the split is 22/115. In Kenya, it is 26/59.

But enlargement and aid are highly political, creating a net result in terms of Brussels' influence abroad.

Looking at staff who answer to EEAS chief Catherine Ashton alone, the top 10 is different: Washington (56), Moscow (46), Tokyo (36), China (30), Ramallah/Tel Aviv (29), Conakry (26), New Delhi (26), Nairobi (26), Bangkok (23) and Ankara (22).

'Barbados might sound nice'

An EU official admitted that some of the numbers look funny but said there are good reasons.

The EU has 43 people in Barbados, 33 in remote Fiji and 77 in Nicaragua, recently prompting MEPs to ask if they are just enjoying the sunshine.

The Barbados mission also covers 10 local mini-states, such as St. Lucia or Anguilla, while Fiji covers all the micro-states in the Pacific Ocean.

"Barbados might sound very nice but staff spend lots of time travelling and work very hard ... Fiji covers a geographic area larger than the territories of the 27 EU countries," the official said.

Some places use lots of locally-hired staff because working conditions - such as driving from place to place - are tricky (Ashton has two diplomats and 24 local staff in Conakry).

The Nicaragua mission was set up to co-ordinate regional aid after Hurricane Mitch in 1998, but is now out of date.

Ashton and the commission are planning to reshuffle overseas personnel after 2013.

The EU official said Ashton will probably open a new embassy in one of the Persian Gulf states already this year (the EU has just 14 people in Saudi Arabia and nobody in Qatar or the United Arab Emirates) and send more people to north Africa.

On the commission side, there is to be a shift from Latin America and Asia to Africa.

Iran embassy not out of the question

The EEAS on Thursday (26 April) signed an "establishment agreement" - a template for diplomatic relations - for a new embassy in Burma. Iran is a future possibility if tensions relax. North Korea is beyond the pale, however.

The official noted that member states have shown "enthusiasm" for bunching up some of their embassies with the EEAS in single compounds, called "Europe houses," to save money.

Several EU countries already operate out of the same building in Tanzania, with talks under way for a pan-EU compound in Afghanistan.

News in Brief

  1. Bulgarian PM investigated over 'money laundering'
  2. Greenpeace breaks into French nuclear plant
  3. Germany increases police presence after shootings
  4. NGO: US and EU 'watering-down' tax reform prior to G20
  5. Iran: parliamentary elections, conservatives likely to win
  6. Belgian CEOs raise alarm on political crisis
  7. Germans voice anger on rise of far-right terrorism
  8. EU leaders' budget summit drags on overnight

EU to publish new enlargement method

EU hopefuls will know more about the hoops they will have to jump through in future when the European Commission publishes its new "enlargement methodology" this week.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. No breakthrough at EU budget summit
  2. EU leaders struggling to break budget deadlock
  3. German ex-commissioner Oettinger lands Orban job
  4. How big is Germany's far-right problem?
  5. Plastic and carbon proposals to help plug Brexit budget gap
  6. Sassoli repeats EU budget rejection warning
  7. Why Miroslav Lajčák is the wrong choice for EU envoy
  8. Unhappy EU leaders begin budget haggle

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us