Thursday

24th May 2018

Ashton drops big ideas on EU foreign service

The EU's foreign policy chief has said member states are not willing to give her what it takes for major reform of the European External Action Service (EEAS).

Speaking to MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday (12 June), Catherine Ashton outlined a modest set of ways to do EU foreign relations better.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

She said her service should have a clear role in crafting the "strategic orientation" of European Commission projects in development and neighbourhood policy.

She backed the creation of new deputies to represent her in European Parliament hearings and on some overseas trips.

She also said decision-making protocols on EU military and civilian crisis missions "need to speed up."

On the subject of deputies, she noted: "I can remember a very sad day when I went to five countries in one day but I was still criticised for not being in the United States."

The three proposals are set to feature in her upcoming EEAS review paper.

But they fall far short of bigger ideas recently put forward by France, Germany and some MEPs.

France in March said the EEAS should co-ordinate EU countries' consular services and should hire security specialists for delegations in foreign hotspots.

Germany said the foreign service should take control of the commission's multi-billion-euro development and neighbourhood budgets.

A report by two MEPs - Germany's Elmar Brok and Italian Roberto Gualtieri - called for EU countries to take foreign policy decisions by majority instead of unanimity and for the creation of an EU military operations HQ.

On consular services and security specialists, Ashton on Wednesday noted that EU nations are not willing to put their money where their mouth is.

She said: "Resources are the key in discussions on any new areas of activity, including consular protection and increased security reporting in delegations, areas at the moment where we have limited expertise and experience. These changes won't happen overnight."

She did not even mention the development/neighbourhood budget, majority voting or military HQ proposals.

She instead highlighted there are limits to how much EU countries really want to do joint foreign relations.

"We must not delude ourselves. The Lisbon treaty left CFSP [Common Foreign and Security Policy] as an intergovernmental instrument which is subject to unanimity in decision-making. In a situation where there is absence of political will or of agreement between member states, there is a limit to what the EEAS can deliver," she said.

MEPs who took the floor on Wednesday praised Ashton for building the EEAS as an institution.

Belgian deputy Annemie Neyts-Uyttenbroeck called it "a little miracle, in which we should rejoice" that she got it up and running in under three years.

Even Ashton critics - such as Charles Tannock, from Britain's ruling Conservative Party - also gave her kudos for brokering a peace deal between Kosovo and Serbia.

But Tannock warned that London will never give up its veto on EU foreign policy.

He called Brok and Gualtieri's idea an "institutional power-grab" and voiced incredulity that British soldiers could be sent to a conflict zone by "qualified majority voting."

MEPs also needled Ashton for having too many highly-paid staff.

Out of her 950 senior officials, 502 are in the AD12 to AD14 bracket, commanding basic salaries of €10,000 to €15,000 a month.

"I don't think any other EU institution has such a number of high-ranking posts," German deputy Ingeborg Graessle, a budget specialist, noted.

Ashton promised to cull some of them next year.

She noted she has almost hit her target for hiring people from eastern European member states and more than doubled the number of women in senior posts.

She also noted her service often gets "bad publicity for all the wrong reasons."

Taking the example of its Barbados delegation, which employs 44 people and which is a favourite target for jibes on EU skivers, she said it has just nine EU staff and 35 local assistants to manage a €250-million-a-year aid budget for 10 countries.

Opinion

EU budget must not fortify Europe at expense of peace

Given the European Commission new budget's heavy focus on migration, border management and security, many are asking whether the proposal will fortify Europe at the expense of its peace commitments.

Opinion

Europe's budget stasis

The EU's budgetary muddling through might not be enough when the next crisis hits.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  2. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  3. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  4. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?
  5. EU pessimistic on permanent US trade exemption
  6. US asks EU to go after Russian and African villains
  7. Facebook threatened with removal from EU-US data pact
  8. Defence firms 'reap benefits' of advice to EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight