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17th Feb 2019

EU states near agreement on diplomatic service

  • The paper envisages a final proposal on the shape of the diplomatic corps by April 2010 (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The EU's new foreign minister will have sweeping powers to conduct foreign policy, propose his own budget and name his own staff independently of other EU institutions, according to the latest EU presidency blueprint.

The 10-page Swedish report - obtained by EUobserver - was submitted to EU ambassadors on Thursday (22 October) and represents a synthesis of Stockholm's consultations with the other 26 EU capitals in recent weeks.

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The post of EU foreign minister or "high representative" for foreign affairs and a new EU diplomatic corps or "European External Action Service" (EEAS) are to be created following the entry into life of the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

The Swedish paper envisages a minister in charge of a unique, "sui generis" institution with its own section in the EU budget alongside the European Commission, the EU parliament and the Council, the Brussels-based secretariat which prepares regular meetings of EU ministers.

The foreign minister is to propose how much money he needs each year, authorise spending, appoint his own staff and take charge of the European Commission's existing delegations across the world.

The new institution is to manage general foreign relations as well as EU security and defence projects, such as the police missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Georgia and Afghanistan or any future peacekeeping operations in, for example, Africa. It is also set to take charge of the Situation Centre, the EU member states' intelligence-sharing hub in Brussels.

The EU diplomatic corps will not be responsible for trade, development or enlargement policy, which are to stay European Commission domains. But it is to have internal cells dealing with developing countries and enlargement candidates which will "play a leading role in the strategic decision-making" on commission programmes such as the European Development Fund.

No free rein

The new foreign policy body will not act entirely on its own accord, however.

The foreign minister is to "prepare" foreign policy initiatives, but "decisions" are to be made by EU member states at intergovernmental level, while the commission is to play an extensive role in the "technical implementation" of projects.

Member states' own embassies will continue to provide diplomatic and consular protection for EU citizens abroad.

Any initiatives which intrude on the commission's trade, enlargement or development work are to be prepared "jointly" by the foreign minister and the commissioner in charge of the portfolio and adopted by the college of commissioners.

The European Parliament is also to play a modest role.

"The High Representative should regularly consult the European Parliament on the main aspects and the basic choices of the CSFP/CSDP [EU foreign and security policy]. Close contacts with the European Parliament will take place at working level," the Swedish text says.

Balancing act

In terms of staffing, the diplomatic corps is to suck in people from the commission's foreign affairs department, relevant experts from the Council and diplomats from member states' foreign ministries. One third of senior or "AD level" staff is to come from member states.

People are to be hired keeping in mind the need to maintain "geographic balance" across the EU and "gender balance." Staff will be rotated into the EEAS and then back out into their old jobs, with diplomats from EU states temporarily becoming EU officials on equal pay and perks to colleagues from Brussels.

The Swedish paper shows the parameters of what member states are willing to accept. But the new foreign minister is to make his final proposal on the shape of the EEAS by April 2010. The new institution should reach "full cruising speed" by 2012 and undergo a thorough review in 2014.

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