Wednesday

28th Sep 2022

EU diplomats should target India and China, ministers say

  • Mr Miliband (l) is standing by Ms Ashton (r) to help her fight off the commission (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The UK and Sweden have said the EU should build bigger embassies in up-and-coming capitals such as New Delhi and warned EU institutions not to hog senior posts in the bloc's new diplomatic service.

British foreign minister David Miliband and his Swedish counterpart, Carl Bildt, in a joint letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday (3 March) urged the bloc to create "larger and more political" delegations in the capitals of India, Pakistan, China, Brasil and Indonesia.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

"Although our relationship with the US will remain the most important, we firmly believe that our ability to be part of shaping the world of tomorrow is critically dependent on our ability to deepen and broaden our relationship with these states," they said.

The letter was written ahead of an informal EU foreign ministers' meeting on Friday (5 March) in Cordoba, Spain, which is to debate the structure of the union's new External Action Service (EAS).

Ms Ashton is planning to put forward her final EAS proposal at the end of March.

The list of five countries in the letter is merely indicative, with EU diplomats saying that Russia and South Africa are also being targeted for a meaty EU presence.

On a related topic, the Miliband-Bildt letter urged Ms Ashton to make sure that member states' diplomats get their fair share of posts in the new service.

It said future EAS recruitment procedures should be "transparent and based on merit" and voiced "concern" that EU Council and European Commission officials are holding on to top EU external relations jobs in the run-up to the EAS launch.

"It is important that you can take the lead in the overall management of the network of delegations," the two men told Ms Ashton. "It [the EAS] must have the keys to its own house."

Ms Ashton was made to look weak by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso last month when he appointed an old Portuguese friend to run the EU's prestigious Washington delegation, bypassing the new foreign relations chief.

Another plum job, the head of the EU mission to the UN in New York, is currently up for grabs.

Technically speaking, the commission has the right to put one of its officials in place because the vacancy came up before the Lisbon Treaty was in force. But member states expect Ms Ashton to take charge by organising an open contest including candidates from EU capitals.

EU's 'brightest and best'

The Miliband-Bildt letter exposes the conflict between member states and the EU institutions over who will take the lead in the EAS.

An EU diplomat told EUobserver that Sweden and France at a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday said they will stop attacking Ms Ashton in the press in order to help her stand up to commission pressure.

On paper, as stated in the Miliband-Bildt letter, everybody wants the "brightest and best" people to run the EAS in an impartial way.

But in practice, there is just as much conflict between individual member states as with the EU commission over who will get the top jobs.

A French diplomat and a German official are currently in the running to become EAS secretary general, a post envisaged by Ms Ashton, in order to offset the existing number of senior Brits.

But with two deputy secretary general jobs also to come up for grabs, smaller member states are equally jostling for position: "A number of countries don't like what is happening - that the three big ones are trying to forge deals on who gets what," an EU diplomat from a small member state told this website.

Emerging nations crafting plan to come to Europe's aid

In a stunning reversal of fortune, it has emerged that the so-called Brics nations, the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - who almost alone in the global economy have weathered the financial crisis sitting atop huge international reserves - are planning to come to Europe's aid.

Europe's far-right celebrates Meloni victory

In Warsaw and Budapest, the prime ministers were quick to congratulate the new Italian leader, who — they hope — will back them in their battles with the EU over civil rights, rule of law and democratic backsliding.

EU seeks crisis powers to take control over supply chains

The Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) introduces a staged, step-by-step, approach — providing emergency powers to the EU Commission to tackle any potential threat which could trigger disruptions or shortages of key products within the EU.

Testimony from son rocks trial of ex-Czech PM Babiš

In a fraud trial relating to €2m in EU subsidies, Andrej Babiš son testified his signature on share-transfer agreements was forged. He claims his father transferred the shares to him without his knowledge, making him a front man for scheme.

Column

EU should admonish less, and listen more, to the Global South

Whether on Russia, or gas, or climate change, or food security, the EU's constant finger-wagging and moralising is becoming unbearably repetitive and self-defeating. Most countries in the Global South view it as eurocentric and neo-colonial.

Podcast

How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.

News in Brief

  1. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  2. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  3. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  4. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  5. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  6. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap
  7. EU: Nord Stream explosions 'result of a deliberate act'
  8. EU okays €21bn Covid-recovery funding for Italy amid concern

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Netherlands tops EU social safety net for the poor
  2. New EU rules to make companies liable for their AI failures
  3. Can King Charles III reset the broken Brexit relationship?
  4. Meloni's navy-blockade plan to stop Libya migrants 'unlikely'
  5. Underwater explosions were detected near Nord Stream leaks
  6. EU countries stall new pesticide rules, blame Ukraine war
  7. The UN's Uyghur report must push EU into China sanctions
  8. Russian diamonds ban 'would cost 10,000 jobs', Antwerp claims

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us