Sunday

30th Apr 2017

Details emerge on final set-up of EU diplomatic corps

  • Constructing the EU diplomatic service has been a lengthy process (Photo: EU Commission)

Both EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and MEPs have claimed victory in the final outcome of the battle of wills to establish the thousands-strong European diplomatic service.

To be on its feet by 1 December, the corps is supposed to give impetus to the EU's often incoherent foreign policy by bringing all its different aspects - external relations, military, civil and development - under one roof.

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 path to the agreement on Monday (21 June) was a typically Brussels-style battle, forcing a mindset change in the EU capital as member states and EU institutions for the first time sought to make a body etwining both intergovernmental and communitarian cultures.

It pitted Ms Ashton's still small team against a parliament determined to push the limits of the powers given to it under the Union's new rulebook.

The power politics saw Ms Ashton saying she is too busy to take calls from deputies while MEPs prevaricated over meeting points.

Both sides claimed victory in the end, however.

"The text which we have on the table today is not substantially very different to the text we set out with in our proposal at the end of March proposal," said an EU diplomat referring to the blueprint signed off my member states earlier this year.

"It is a text that is more precise on some issues; in some areas it is more clearly written," the diplomat summed up.

Liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt, one of parliament's three negotiators, said the institution had made a "huge difference" to the original proposal.

"Mostly we succeeded in changing the initial philosophy of ... the service," he said.

The balance

The final compromise looks to have fallen in between these two assessments. The service, with an ultimate size of around 8,000 people, will be a one-of-a-kind set-up, with its own, separate administrative budget. The budget will be subject to political control by the parliament.

MEPs have been given a strong opening in foreign policy issues. Ms Ashton has agreed that they can be consulted before EU missions abroad while they have also been given much stronger budgetary oversight over such actions.

In terms of staff for the service, only 40 percent will be allowed to be temporary diplomats from member states. The remainder must be permanent staff. The service will initially be commission-staff heavy but the balance is eventually expected to tip towards member states as there are only a finite number of commission staff eligible for the posts.

There will be no quotas for member states, something newer member states were very keen on. A diplomat explained that could raise the awkward possibility of having the head of the delegation in Russia post only open to new member states candidates.

Strategic country planning will take place in the service but the ultimate programming decisions for external assistance will rest with the commission. Geographical desks in the service will not be duplicated in the commission.

Internally, the service will have a secretary general and two deputy secretary generals as well as a director general for budget and administration - this last post being pushed in by the parliament.

Ms Ashton, who has a hectic travel schedule, will be deputised by either the relevant EU commissioner or the foreign minister of the country holding the EU presidency.

Timetable

Ms Ashton's team is still hoping to get the service established by 1 December - exactly a year after the EU's new rulebook, the Lisbon Treaty, came into force.

Assuming the parliament as a whole votes on the decision in July (they have yet to formally put it on the agenda) Ms Ashton will start advertising top posts at the end of next month. On a "best-case scenario" the jobs could then be filled in October.

The budget line for this year is €9.5 million euros. This foresees 1,100 diplomatic staff with about 100 new jobs created.

"These [new] posts are for reinforcing delegations overseas," said an EU diplomat.

EU boasts unity on Brexit talks

EU leaders adopted the bloc's guidelines for the UK exit negotiations that will start in June, amid concerns that France could elect a president that would try to take it out of the EU.

Column / Brexit Briefing

May’s election juggernaut

The prime minister's Tories almost need not bother campaigning for the June election. There is no opposition worthy of the name.

Investigation

Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin

Le Pen traf Putin dreimal, nicht einmal, wie berichtet wurde. Aber wieviel Geld bekam ihre Partei und an welche Bedingungen war es geknüpft?

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EU boasts unity on Brexit talks
  2. May’s election juggernaut
  3. EPP scolds Orban over university and NGO laws
  4. Oxford-Studie besorgt über 'Schrott' News in Frankreich
  5. Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin
  6. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  7. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  8. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual