Tuesday

28th Feb 2017

Member states agree diplomatic service outline

  • Member states are waiting for the thumbs up from parliament (Photo: European Parliament)

Member states on Monday (26 April) reached political agreement on the future shape of the EU's new diplomatic service, with the parliament seen as the biggest remaining obstacle to a formal go-ahead.

Announcing the breakthrough after lengthy negotiations, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said "Europe needs an External Action Service because it will help us to build a distinct 21st century European response."

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.

"[The service] will bring together in a joined-up way our response to the issues that we face in the world and promote comprehensive policies," she added.

Most of the negotiations on Monday focussed on how to ensure that member state diplomats are fairly represented in the EAS. The rules say that the service should be made up of an equal number of officials from the commission, the Council secretariat and member states, but governments are worried that it will take a long time before their quota is filled.

It was also agreed that the EAS will only offer limited consular services - an earlier more extensive role was reduced due to British misgivings - while the commission will have a say over candidates shortlisted to head the EU's 136 delegations around the world.

Formal agreement on the blueprint can only be given by member states once the European Commission gives its consent - seen as likely - and MEPs give their opinion on it.

Ordinarily member states would be more cavalier about the prospect of a non-binding opinion from MEPs on the diplomatic service's structure. But parliament's co-decision powers on issues further down the line, such as on changing staffing and financial rules, crucial to getting the service up and running, have given deputies a de facto veto.

Ms Ashton said Monday's agreement would allow her to "kick-start negotiations" with MEPs. She appealed to the EU assembly to play a "constructive role" noting that "parliament's powers and prerogatives are fully respected within the decision."

While the parliament will have budgetary oversight over the service and the power of the secretary general of the service has been watered down - both major points for MEPs - it will be a stand-alone body rather than an integral part of the commission, as deputies had called for.

Member states, some of whom are exasperated by MEPs playing hardball, believed putting the service under the commission's roof would give the parliament powers it does not have in the treaty, such as a say on defence and foreign affairs.

A meeting of the parliament's budgetary control committee on Monday illustrated the likely difficulty of the negotiations still to come.

German conservative MEP Ingeborg Graessle said the diplomatic service's independent status raises a whole series of "legal questions that would not be raised if it is part of the commission."

She pointed to the lack of clarity on who is responsible if EU money is misspent. It is "very important that only EU officials spend EU money," she noted, referring to fact that heads of delegation, who may be national diplomats, can sign off budgets for their delegations.

"We only have clear supervisory powers if the commission is responsible."

Bulgarian Socialist MEP Ivailo Kalfin noted that the decision to put the EAS in charge of strategic planning on development issues - with its billions-strong yearly budget - and the commission in charge of its implementation will blur the lines of responsibility.

"I am afraid that when we try and find the chain of responsibility, we shall face great difficulties," he said.

MEPs have an equal say with member states on changing the staff and financial rules in order to accommodate the service and on establishing a budget for it.

Juncker envisages EU of core groups

Commission head Juncker say EU states which want deeper integration should press ahead in core groups, in reaction to the UK’s departure.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

Le Pen used 'fake' EU parliament jobs

A leaked EU anti-fraud office report says French far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, had her bodyguard and personal assistant paid by the EU parliament for jobs they did not do.

EU commission drops anti-corruption report

Transparency campaigners are livid after the EU commission scuppered plans to publish an EU anti-corruption report amid unfolding corruption scandals in Romania and France.

News in Brief

  1. Le Pen party in new EU fraud allegations
  2. May to end rights of EU nationals after Article 50 triggered
  3. Nato warns against Armenia-Azerbaijan 'escalation'
  4. EU: No military solution to Nagorno-Karabakh war
  5. EU adopts visa-free brake mechanism
  6. Trump and Brexit drew on same resources
  7. Romanian protestors form EU flag at anti-government rally
  8. Over 3,500 attacks on refugees in Germany: report

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFA Deadly Journey for Children: The Migration Route From North Africa to Europe
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsFreedom of Association and Expression Under Threat in Kazakhstan
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Brussels on March 6th
  4. EURORDISJoin Rare Disease Day and Help Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  6. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  7. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  8. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  9. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  10. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  11. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen