15th Aug 2020

New treaty will not create 'one phone number' for Europe

The Lisbon Treaty will reduce by one the number of EU representatives on the international stage but will still not create the famous "one telephone number for Europe," a senior US official has said.

The EU will continue to be represented by a plethora of high-level officials once the Lisbon Treaty comes into force on 1 December, despite the novelties advertised as helping Europe to "speak with one voice."

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  • Instead of one number to call Europe, the Lisbon Treaty may create a new "Brussels-based switchboard" (Photo:

As foreign policy issues will still require unanimity among member states to formulate a common position, the US will still work with European countries bilaterally, Richard Morningstar, a special advisor on energy to US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said Wednesday (18 November) at a briefing organised by the European Policy Center, a Brussels think-tank.

Asked about the famous quote attributed – some say wrongly – to former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger: "Whom do I call when I want to call Europe?" Mr Morningtsar wondered if Mr Kissinger "today wishes he hadn't made that statement."

"I do think the Lisbon Treaty helps, from the standpoint of consolidating the jobs of the commissioner for external relations and the high representative for foreign affairs. At least in the EU as a structure I suppose there will be one number to call," Mr Morningstar said.

The veteran diplomat seemed unimpressed by the merger of the high representative with the commissioner post however, saying that "maybe it will work a little easier with them being one person," but pointing out that both Mr Solana and Ms Fererro-Waldner had been very active and co-operation with the US had been good under the status quo.

In terms of general representation of Europe, the Americans will still be outnumbered by their colleagues from across the Atlantic, for instance in the EU-US energy council, a new body set up last month in Washington and aimed at streamlining policies and regulations in the respective energy sectors.

"The US-EU energy council is chaired at a very high level – secretary of state and secretary of energy on the US side. On the European side, with the Lisbon Treaty, it will be the high representative plus two other commissioners – on research and on energy – as well as [the energy minister from] the EU presidency country," Mr Morningstar said.

Adding more spice to the issue, he mentioned some concerns he had heard in several capitals he visited prior to coming to Brussels, that member states "want to know how they can get involved" in the EU-US energy council.

"That's going to be an issue particularly for the EU side, to make sure that the member states can work with the [energy] council through the [country holding the rotating EU] presidency and the Council [the EU member states' secratariat] in Brussels."

Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary were three of the countries he visited on his way to Belgium, but he said these concerns were shared by other EU member states as well.

Summing up the one-number issue, Antonio Missiroli from the European Policy Centre wondered if the image of a "Brussels-based switchboard" was not more appropriate to describe the new institutional set-up once the Lisbon Treaty comes into force.

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