Wednesday

22nd Feb 2017

Negotiators rush to get EU diplomatic service ready

  • Catherine Ashton - pushing to get the service agreed by all parties next week (Photo: Council of European Union)

Negotiators on the diplomatic service are in a last-minute rush to get the outline of the new corps agreed by early next week so it can be signed off by EU leaders at their summit on 17-18 June.

Talks on Tuesday (8 June) involving EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and MEPs on the last details of the service ended with one main issue on the table, according to EU sources.

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.

It concerns where to position the new service in the EU institutional set-up. Member states and Ms Ashton wanted to have a stand-alone service with its own independent budget.

MEPs, and particularly Liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt, one of the parliament's three negotiators on the diplomatic service, were against this solution arguing that it would not be subject to proper oversight. MEPs want it to be anchored to the European Commission, arguing also that setting up an independent body with its own separate budget would set a dangerous precedent.

"We have agreement in principle on political accountability," said a source. "What is still the outstanding issue is more budgetary."

According to the source, a compromise is now being sought that would be a half-way house between the two views. "We are looking at the moment at a compromise that looks something like the OLAF (EU anti-fraud office) situation, where you're given an independent budget but you go to the commission for the money."

This would not include money for programming however, which is "ring-fenced."

With the EU leaders summit at the end of next week seen as a natural deadline for the discussions, officials are hurrying to get the budgetary wrinkle ironed out.

Ms Ashton has offered to meet MEPs, along with Spanish foreign minister Miguel Moratinos and the EU institutional affairs commissioner, for what is hoped to be a last round of talks on Friday.

If all goes to plan, the leaders of the political groups in the parliament would give the green light on Monday morning, allowing foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg to sign it off before it goes to the EU leaders' table.

A spokesperson for Ms Ashton said Tuesday's meeting saw a "very constructive dialogue."

"The High Representative considers all parties to be very close to a political agreement. She is confident that this political agreement can be reached very soon, hopefully in the next few days."

An agreement next week would free Ms Ashton to start the process of appointing names to the high level jobs in the corps - over 50 vacancies for heads of delegation will be coming up in the next months.

Ms Ashton is hoping to have the service up-and-running by December. This is much later than the original spring date foreseen but talks were complicated by the need to get agreement by member states, the European Commission and Parliament.

"The difficulty we had was that the timing was based on an expectation that was never realistic - that you could do this in just no time," said an EU diplomat recently.

"We are being asked to create a completely new animal from scratch. The problem is that everybody, including our main partners around the world, were led to believe that the miracle would happen the day that the Lisbon Treaty entered into force (1 December 2009). That's why they are a bit impatient."

The service, due to have up to 8,000 personnel once it is fully established, is meant to give coherency and on-hand expertise to EU foreign policy.

Focus

Crowded race to win EU medicines agency

As cities line up to take over the European Medicines Agency some fear a kerfuffle that could destabilise the agency's work and slow down the pace of approving new medicines.

Stakeholder

Fighting environmental injustice in Europe

In the face of new threats from multinational companies, global environmental justice movements are springing into action in an unfamiliar arena - Europe.

Opinion

Romania, the endless anti-corruption race

Romanians take to the streets in anti-government protests due to a proposed amendment to the country's anti-corruption legislation. But will this have any effect?

France's Macron issues Brexit warning

The centrist presidential candidate tells talented Britons to come to France and warns against giving the UK "undue advantages" after Brexit, in a speech in London.

Focus

Crowded race to win EU medicines agency

As cities line up to take over the European Medicines Agency some fear a kerfuffle that could destabilise the agency's work and slow down the pace of approving new medicines.

News in Brief

  1. Romanian parliament buries controversial corruption decree
  2. Dozens drown off Libyan coast
  3. EU ministers approve anti-tax avoidance directive
  4. Poland rejects EU criticism of court changes
  5. German nationalist leader met with Putin allies in Moscow
  6. German housing market overheated, says Bundesbank
  7. France invites three EU leaders for Versailles summit in March
  8. Greece agrees on new bailout reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  2. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  3. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  4. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  5. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  7. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  9. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  10. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  11. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe