Wednesday

22nd Mar 2017

Germany calls for more powerful EU diplomatic service

  • Asthon's mandate ends in 2014, but she has won credit for her diplomatic skills (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Germany has proposed giving the EU's foreign service sweeping new powers over neighbourhood policy and development aid.

Its ideas are to be discussed by EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Dublin on Friday (22 March).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But its non-paper, a three-page text dated 1 February and seen by EUobserver, has already been endorsed by 13 other EU countries - Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

It says: "the EEAS [European External Action Service] should be further strengthened to ensure a coherent, comprehensive and integrated EU approach to external action."

It calls for it to "be responsible for neighbourhood policy" and to get "overall authority" on "strategic and multi-annual programming in the area of development co-operation."

EU relations with neighbouring states and development aid are currently handled by the European Commission, with separate commissioners for each of the two portfolios.

An EU diplomat told this website the "institutional implications" of the plan - for example, whether to change the EU treaty on the number of commissioners or how to increase the EEAS budget - are to be worked out at a later stage.

But the non-paper already makes one budget proposal, saying "the scope of financial instruments under the responsibility of the EEAS should include all parts of the [commission's] Instrument for Stability [IfS]."

The current EEAS budget is worth €489 million a year.

The IfS is worth another €295 million. But if the foreign service gets control of the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument (€1.6bn a year), the Development Co-operation Instrument (€2.4bn) and the European Development Fund (€4.5bn), its chequebook would swell to €9.3 billion a year.

In other upgrades, Germany wants the EEAS to take charge of negotiations on EU association and partnership treaties with world powers such as China, Israel or Russia.

It also says EEAS ambassadors should have priority over member states' diplomatic envoys in "representing all aspects of the EU's external policy in a third country."

At the same time, it recognises that the EU foreign service needs to sort out its administrative problems.

EEAS officials have complained there is confusion on who does what at senior level and that the commission, which takes care of EEAS human resources, does a poor job in what looks to some like sabotage in a Brussels turf war.

Meanwhile, EEAS chief Catherine Ashton has faced criticism for skipping internal EU meetings in favour of international events.

The non-paper says that: "Two years after the establishment of the EEAS, the processes and structure at senior management level should be reviewed with a view to ensuring clear reporting lines and division of tasks."

It urges the commission to "ensure the effective provision of administrative tasks."

It also indicates that Ashton should have deputies who can "represent [her] in the college of commissioners, in the European Parliament and vis-a-vis third countries."

In terms of process, Ashton is to draft her own review proposals after the Dublin meeting. EU countries will then tweak the plan, with a view to getting an agreement in autumn.

Britain is expected to oppose Germany's ideas.

France, another EU country which guards its right to an independent foreign policy, has circulated two non-papers of its own ahead of Dublin.

Some EU diplomats are also concerned the commission will fight to keep its powers. "We fear [commission chief] Mr. Barroso. He really needs to make an effort on collaborating," a diplomatic contact noted.

For her part, Ashton's mandate as EEAS chief ends in 2014.

Britain and France in the beginning attacked her for lack of foreign policy nous and for overlooking the military and security aspects of her portfolio.

She later won credit for her handling of non-proliferation talks with Iran and Kosovo-Serbia reconciliation, however.

Her spokesman, Michael Mann, underlined that she has transformed the EEAS "from an idea on paper to a fully-functioning EU diplomatic service."

He added: "The service already runs smoothly and co-operates well with the commission."

EU struggles with multi-speed idea

EU leaders meeting in Brussels insisted on staying united after Brexit but are still divided over fears of creating new 'elite clubs' within the bloc.

News in Brief

  1. Russia invites EU diplomats to occupied Crimea
  2. UK parliament in lockdown after reported attack
  3. Brussels attacks remembered with minute of silence and noise
  4. Magnitsky's lawyer injured near Moscow
  5. Trump to travel to Brussels on 25 May for Nato summit
  6. Polish defence minister accuses Tusk of treason
  7. Fillon slips in polls as new allegations emerge
  8. Brexit summit for EU-27 will be on 29 April

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Advertisements
  2. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  3. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  4. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  6. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  7. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  8. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  9. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  10. Malta EU 2017Consumer Protection Laws to Be Strengthened by EU-Wide Cooperation
  11. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted
  12. UNICEFSyria Conflict 6 Years On: Children's Suffering at Its Worst