Wednesday

14th Nov 2018

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.

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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.

EU and China perform tricky diplomatic dance

EU and China relations kicked off 15 years ago after signing a strategic partnership. Trade has increased dramatically but human rights and other issues remain tricky as the two seek to defend international law and international trade.

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