Wednesday

26th Apr 2017

Opinion

A close look at the EU foreign service staff reshuffle

  • Mogherini has diminished the disproportionate influence of member states (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Even though the latest personnel changes introduced by Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, were the results of the behind-the-closed-door deals between the European Commission and the EU External Action Service (EEAS), many of them move the EU’s diplomatic service in the right direction.

Mogherini was mandated by the EU Council to revamp the top-heavy EEAS by the end of 2015. In organisational terms, she visually rearranged the EEAS chart.

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.

  • EEAS building in EU district in Brussels (Photo: EUobserver)

But on closer inspection, Mogherini’s reforms appear to be much less extensive. Although she reordered the geographical and thematic directorates and slimmed down the administrative department, the number of top officials - four - remains the same .

The backgrounds and portfolios of Alain Le Roy, the French secretary general of the EEAS and his three deputies - German Helga Schmid, Spaniard Pedro Serrano and Swede Christian Leffler - also remain similar to what was before.

Structurally, Mogherini really shook things up only in the security policy, or CSDP section by putting the “defence ministry” part of EEAS on an equal footing with other sections - a move that the French had initially resisted.

At the lower level, through the annual rotation between the EEAS HQ and EU delegations and internal promotions, Mogherini decreased the number of directors from two to one by, for instance, dispatching some directors to head EU delegations (e.g. Gerhard Sabathil from Asia and Pacific to Seoul).

From now on, directors can deputise for their bosses, the managing directors, alleviating travel burdens and turf battles. If we include all senior posts, Mogherini cut down the overall number of EEAS managerial jobs from 34 (under her predecessor Catherine Ashton) to 30. This decrease is not a huge leap but represents a step forward.

Shenanigans

The most significant changes took place thanks to personnel shenanigans with the European Commission.

It seems Mogherini might have arranged for an interchange between EEAS and commission officials by hiring Gianmarco Di Vita from the commission’s secretariat general and Lotte Knudsen from the aid bureau, DG Devco, in exchange for outgoing EEAS managing directors Hugues Mingarelli and Patrick Child, who may trade their places with the incoming commission executives.

Such reshuffles between EEAS and the commission should in fact be the rule, strengthening the EEAS-commission link and helping to foster a more cooperative environment between the institutions.

It is however a shame that these swaps were much more a product of behind-closed-doors personal deals arranged by Stefano Manservisi, Mogherini’s head of cabinet, rather than a result of transparent structural tradeoffs between EEAS and commission officials at equal levels that would be run by human resources departments in both organisations.

It remains to be seen whether the upcoming rotation to EU delegations will reflect similar inter-institutional political deals as the nominations of Markus Cornaro (former deputy Director General of DG Devco) to head the delegation in South Africa and Patrick Simonnet (former deputy head of unit in DG DEVCO) to lead the delegation in Iraq may suggest.

Ashton’s tenure was marked by competition among EU states to put as many of their nationals into as many key jobs in EEAS and delegations as possible.

Tackling imbalances

Under Mogherini, the overall composition of the EEAS management is evenly split (with two more posts to be filled) and with the very top ranks favouring EU officials (nine) over national diplomats (five).

So far, the Italians lead the way (as much as the Brits did under Ashton), followed by Germans and, perhaps surprisingly, Swedes and Austrians.

However, the French are obvious but remarkable losers of the personnel reshuffles: except for Le Roy, there is no other French diplomat in the top hierarchy of the EEAS.

Moreover, there remains a stark under-representation of member states that joined the EU after 2004. In fact, the situation has slightly deteriorated with the departure of Poland’s Maciej Popowski from the CSDP structures under Mogherini.

Even if the results are a product of political exchanges between the EEAS and the commission, Mogherini has tackled the organisational and staff imbalances in the EEAS.

She has diminished the disproportionate influence of member states on the EEAS and tilted back towards a better balance with supranational institutions.

But she should watch out that the EEAS does not move too close to the commission, as some member states have started to warn that she might risk alienating them along the way, potentially hampering the effectiveness of the EU’s external action.

Tereza Novotna is an academic at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, where she studies the EU diplomatic service and its foreign delegations

Time for EU to hand Iran dossier to Mogherini

Institutions matter more than personalities in the Iran talks. Ashton did a good job, but it's time for the EU to show it has faith in its new foreign policy chief by giving the Iran job to Mogherini.

Analysis

From Solana to Mogherini: What did Ashton really do?

Ashton's defenders say she created Europe's foreign service and clinched the Iran and Kosovo-Serbia accords. But in fact she played a minor role in all three, posing the question: How should we remember the EU's first foreign policy chief?

Column / Brexit Briefing

May's drive for one-party Brexit state

Snap election will kill off attempts to reopen debate on second referendum and inflict further damaged on confused opposition.

Column / Brexit Briefing

May's drive for one-party Brexit state

Snap election will kill off attempts to reopen debate on second referendum and inflict further damaged on confused opposition.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  2. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan
  3. Ivanka Trump to meet Merkel at Berlin women's conference
  4. Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in 20 years
  5. Nord Stream 2 to get €4.8bn from European energy firms
  6. Defeated Fillon retires from French politics
  7. Hollande: Vote Macron to avoid 'risk' for France
  8. Italy misses deadline on air quality warning

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children

Latest News

  1. Russische schwarze Kassen bedrohen EU Demokratie
  2. Libya commanders in Brussels for migration talks
  3. Mixed review for EU asylum spots in Greece and Italy
  4. France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win
  5. Free wifi plan backed by MEP committee
  6. Report: Germany blocks post-Dieselgate reform
  7. Russia suspected of Macron hack
  8. EU to exclude financial services from post-Brexit deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsTime to Turn the Tide and End Repression of Central Asia's Civil Society
  2. European Free AllianceAutonomia to Normalnosc - Poland Urged to Re-Grant Autonomy to Silesia
  3. UNICEFHitting Rock Bottom - How 2016 Became the Worst Year for #ChildrenofSyria
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  6. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  7. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  8. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  9. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  11. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  12. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal