Friday

30th Sep 2016

Ashton secures deal on new diplomatic service

  • The diplomatic service has caused fierce turf wars in Brussels (Photo: European Commission)

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has finalised her blueprint for the EU's first ever diplomatic service after the European Commission on Wednesday (24 March) agreed to give her key powers over the EU's multi-billion euro annual development budget.

According to UK daily The Guardian, Ms Ashton will be in charge of regional and country strategy in the development field. The service, expected to contain around 7,000 people when it is fully established, will also be in charge of drawing up the strategic priorities for the EU's neighbourhood policy, dealing with countries on its borders.

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.

These two areas had been the subject of a fierce battle between Ms Ashton and the commission, which had been determined to hang on to as many of its powers as possible.

According to an EU official, the deal represents a "workable compromise" with the external action service involved in three of the five steps of the planning cycle for development, while the commission is in charge of two.

Under the set-up, Ms Ashton will head the service and also be responsible for appointing its staff, which the treaty specifies should be divided equally among the commission, the council and member states. Staff are to have the same rights and obligations whether they come from the commission, the council secretariat or from national diplomatic services.

The blueprint, expected to be circulated today, comes a week earlier than had been expected. But it still needs to be agreed by member states, while MEPs have co-decision powers over staffing and financial rules, which need to be changed to accommodate the service.

Deputies have raised concerns about the secretary general of the new corps, saying that in the proposed set-up the person will be too powerful and will lack political accountability. The parliament is also arguing that Ms Ashton, who has a busy and often conflicting schedule, needs political deputies to represent her in the meetings she is unable to personally attend.

This in turn has raised concerns from the part of some member states who believe the parliament will try and play political games with the deputies, dictating which political family they come from.

Meanwhile, member states are concerned that commission officials are dominating the service. Governments are already lining up to get a national into key jobs. Around six CVs have been sent in for the job of head of the EU delegation in China. In addition, a group of 11 smaller member states, led by Austria, has clubbed together to complain about representation in the service. They say they will only have a few diplomats each, with the service slated to have around 100 places for national diplomats at the beginning.

Ms Ashton has said she is aware of the need for the balance in the staff but said it will take time to make it happen, with the service expected to take some years before it fully equipped.

The British peer had been hoping to have agreement on the blueprint by the end of next month. However, the potential disputes mean the technical decisions to get the service up and running, such as on the staffing regulation, may see it delayed to summer or early autumn.

EU Council is 'black hole' in public trust

The EU Council, its most powerful institution, is a “black hole” unto the general public, hampering EU efforts to regain trust, a leading NGO has said.

EU commission presents 'realistic' lobbying rules

The EU executive called for more stringent regulation of interest representatives trying to influence EU decision making. Critics say the 'transparency revolution' is being blocked by the European Parliament and EU member states.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAFinTech Boom Needs Strong Guidance to Navigate Regulatory Hurdles
  2. Counter BalanceWhy the Investment Plan for Europe Does not Drive the Sustainable Energy Transition
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region Seeks to Make Its Voice Heard in the World
  4. Taipei EU OfficeCountries Voice Support for Taiwan's Participation in ICAO
  5. World VisionNew Tool Measuring Government Efforts to Protect Children Released
  6. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  7. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  8. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  9. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  10. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  11. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List
  12. GoogleBringing Education to Refugees in Lebanon With the Clooney Foundation for Justice