Sunday

19th Jan 2020

EU commission 'embassies' granted new powers

  • The commission's unit in China is among the list of 54 (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The EU has converted 54 out of the European Commission's 136 foreign delegations into embassy-type missions authorised to speak for the entire union.

The move follows the coming into force last year of the Lisbon Treaty, which has the creation of a new EU diplomatic corps as one of its main provisions.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

All 136 commission delegations were renamed "EU delegations" on 1 January. But only the 54 placements were at the same time quietly given fresh powers in line with their new names.

The super-delegations have taken on the role previously carried out by the national embassies of the member state holding the six-month EU presidency at any given time.

As such, they now co-ordinate the work of the member states' bilateral missions to the countries in question. The heads of the 54 delegations are also empowered to speak on behalf of the EU as a whole. But their statements have to be pre-approved by the 27 EU countries during meetings in Brussels.

"They are going to be a bit more political. They will provide the same function that was provided by the given [EU presidency] member state before," an EU official said.

Eight of the new-model units are in Europe: Armenia, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland and Ukraine.

Twelve are in Asia and the Pacific Ocean: Afghanistan, Australia, China, East Timor, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Vietnam.

The rest is in Africa: Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the delegation to the African Union in Addis Ababa.

Some of the far-flung outposts concentrate on distributing aid and also do ad-hoc projects, such as promoting European film in Fiji.

The 54 missions were selected by EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton following discussions with EU states. There is no deadline for the conversion of the rest.

The choice is designed not to undermine the prestige of the Spanish EU presidency: None of the new placements are in former Spanish colonies in Latin America or in countries due to hold EU summits on Spain's watch, such as the US and Russia. China is the only exception, with a summit due on 15 March.

The choice was also guided by technical issues.

Most of the commission's delegations to international bodies, such as the UN in New York or the OSCE in Vienna, were not included because the EU is still working out how to handle its membership in multilateral forums under Lisbon.

Some commission delegations did not have enough staff or were not yet plugged in to the EU system for circulating classified information, known as Coreu.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Nuclear arms race threat after EU rebukes Iran

EU powers have triggered a process that could bring the world back to 2006, when sanctions and threats were all that stood in the way of a Middle East nuclear arms race.

Analysis

No Libya truce in Moscow: time for EU step in

While the European Union was too divided to help resolve Libya's civil war, Russia filled the gap. It managed to get the fighting parties to Moscow, but without result.

EU should be 'part of the game' on Iran, Michel says

EU Council president Charles Michel urged Iran to stick to the nuclear arms deal and said the EU should play a stronger role in the Middle East, ahead of travelling to Turkey and Egypt on Saturday.

News in Brief

  1. 'No objection in principle' on Huawei cooperation, EU says
  2. French aircraft carrier goes to Middle East amid tensions
  3. EU suggests temporary ban on facial recognition
  4. EU industry cries foul on Chinese restrictions
  5. 'Devil in detail', EU warns on US-China trade deal
  6. Trump threatened EU-tariffs over Iran, Germany confirms
  7. EU trade commissioner warns UK of 'brinkmanship'
  8. Germany strikes coal phase-out deal

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Opinion

'A game of roulette' - life as a journalist now in Turkey

Turkey has more journalists behind bars than any other country in the world. The authorities seem to equate journalism with terrorism: everyone has the right to express themselves, but, in their eyes, legitimate journalism is a threat to security.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us