Report „Review of the organisation and the functioning of the EEAS”, briefing with MEP Elmar Brok

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EPIn 2013 the High Representative/Vice President of the European Commission Catherine Ashton is expected to present a report on the organization and the functioning of the European Eexternal Action Service. On this occasion, numerous think tanks (e.g. CEPS, Carnegie, PISM, Asser), media (e.g. Europolitics), as well as EU Member States have been coming up with their own recommendations. Also the EP decided to speak up. The draft report prepared by co-rapporteurs Elmar Brok (EPP) and Roberto Gualtieri (S&D) was adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee AFET on 23 April and it will be voted in the Plenary today, on 12 June (ref. no. 2012/2253(INI)). Let’s have a look at it.

PART I: Briefing

A briefing with the co-rapporteur of the EP’s Report Mr. Elmar Brok, was organised on 4 June in the European Parliament in Brussels. 15 representatives from different sectors took part in the briefing, which was by invitation only.

In his introductory remarks Elmar Brok stated that in such a multilevel and complicated environment of the EU, the organisation and the functioning of the EEAS is not an easy task, especially for one person – HR/VP , taking into consideration the fact that she has had also other tasks to fulfil at the same time. Moreover, it must be underlined that such a short period of time: two and a half year since the creation of the EEAS, is not sufficient for the Service to reveal its potential. The new legal and political framework given by the Treaty of Lisbon was to create the synergy effect among the EU institutions, as well as between them and the EU Member States; it has not been achieved yet, partially because of the short timeline, but also because lady Ashton is not a personality of a visionary nature, and neither a charismatic type such as for example  Javier Solana. The problems remain, especially:

1. ‘the turf battles’ – the (lack of smooth) cooperation between the EU institutions, particularly the EC and the EEAS;

2. (the lack of) trust in decision-making power by the EEAS.

According to E. Brok, to overcome them, the HR/VP must be a real part of the EC team: she or he  (in reference to the new HR in the middle of 2014) must participate in the meetings of the College of Commissioners, even if only via new political deputy(ies), who shall be nominated in the next term. S/he must also intensify building confidence and find a platform for communication with the MSs’ Ministries of Foreign Affairs, in order to make them believe in the added value of the European diplomatic service, as well as to divide the labour between the European and national diplomacies. This will also help in overcoming distrust inside the 141 EU Delegations, where the EU-career diplomats must now work together with those from purely national backgrounds. Mr. Brok has shown how deep this gap is by commenting on a question raised by one of the Perm Rep’s diplomats: “I cannot open myself in front of you with all our [EP] intentions, because you are our enemies in this field”.

On my question: “if you were a Minister of Foreign Affairs of one of the EU Member States, would you send to the EEAS your best national diplomats, in this way depriving your national service of the best people, or on the contrary?”, E. Brok replied that “to have influence in Brussels and EEAS, you should send your best men, on all levels, starting from the lowest niveau of assistants, through administrators, to the highest level of ‘generals’, and definitely for a longer period than just 4-5 years.”

On a concern on how to create a feeling of community and loyalty inside the EU Delegations, Rapporteur suggested that the solution is not a new diplomatic academy, but using of the premises that already exist, such as European Security and Defence College, College of Europe or European University Institute, and to jointly train diplomats of both the institutional and national backgrounds in order to start building the esprit de corps from there.

PART II: “Recommendation to the HR/VP, to the Council and to the EC on the 2013 review of the organisation and the functioning of the EEAS”

As far as the Report itself is concerned, there are few points worth discussing. Generally, the Rapporteurs noticed that “there has been good progress in setting up the EEAS but that more can be achieved in terms of synergy and coordination between institutions, as well as political leadership and visibility”. The document is constructed upon seven priorities and scrutinizes both the well- and lesser-known ills of the EU’s diplomatic representation. The most interesting is the point no. 1. Let’s critisize it a bit:

1. On leadership and a more rational and efficient structure for 21st century diplomacy

  • the multiple roles entrusted by the Lisbon Treaty to the HR/VP calls for the creation of (a) political deputy/ies in order to ensure that (s)he is assisted in the accomplishment of her/his tasks (…) [(s)he] would be accountable to Parliament and appear before its responsible committee prior to taking up duties;

I believe that such a deputy would facilitate the functioning of the HR/VP, it would also enhance his/her position and influence among other EU officials and vis-à-vis the Member States (MS). The MS would be able to accept such a position as long as it is not occupied by an important person (who could be seen as competitive to them) but by a regular pragmatic clerk.

  • to envisage  the possibility of qualified majority voting on CFSP matters, as laid down in Article 31(2) TEU;

Not acceptable to the majority of Member State in short and medium-terms. Europe is not yet ready for such a radical move. As first steps, a redefinition of the meaning of sovereignty and the creation of European identity are indispensable.

  • to safeguard, at the same time, the ‚community’ character of the neighbourhood policy, bearing in mind that Parliament rejects any intergovernmentalisation of Union policies, (…) to avoid duplication of efforts and structures between the EEAS, the Commission – in particular DG DEVCO and the European Community Humanitarian aid Office (ECHO) – and the Council Secretariat;

It is an intriguing point, because it suggests that the Neighbourhood is a ‚community policy’. It goes against the non-paper produced by Germany and supported by 15 MSs, who wish to transfer the Neighbourhood policy to the EEAS. However, it must be remembered that although the ENP is directed by the Commissioner for Enlargement and ENP, but contrary to DG Enlargement, there’s no ‚DG ENP’, and the people creating the policy are already situated in the EEAS, while the ones in DG DEVCO are responsible for implementing the operational projects. Such a division of competences into three bodies produces problems, but at the same time transferring the ENP into EEAS would weaken and water down the policy.

  • in coordination with the Member States, to set out options over the medium to long-term for achieving economies of scale between Member States’ diplomatic services and the EEAS in third countries, including in relation to the provision of consular services; (…) to promote deeper cooperation with Member States and to develop joint political reporting between delegations and embassies;

It is striking that such a coordination was not envisaged before!

Other ideas of the Rapporteurs:

2. On the ‘appropriate structure’ for ensuring a comprehensive approach

  • pursuing a Comprehensive Approach that integrates diplomatic, economic, development, and (…) military means;
  • establishing a permanent military Operational Headquarter;

3. On reforming financial procedures for effective external action

4. On the Delegations

  • enhancing the coordinating role of delegations, especially in crisis situations, and by enabling them to provide consular protection to EU citizens from Member States who are not represented in a given country.

Furthermore, what is striking with regard to the content, but not to its authors’ affiliation, is that an entire additional paragraph was devoted to ensuring and enhancing EP’s role in the functioning and supervising of the EEAS. This interpretation of the Lisbon Treaty in reference to the EEAS  and EU’s external representation proposed by the EP goes definitely beyond what the MSs can accept:

5. On implementing the Declaration on Political Accountability

  • there should be a thorough assessment of the political accountability of the EEAS towards Parliament; to improve appearances before Parliament and its bodies by the HR/VP and EEAS officials, including the Heads of Delegations and EUSRs; Parliament’s oversight over the EEAS is essential if European external action is to be better understood and supported by EU citizens, this includes also:

–          full political reporting from Union delegations to key office holders of Parliament under regulated access,

–          full information at all stages of the procedure for negotiations on international agreements, including agreements concluded in the area of CFSP;

–          a systematic exchange with the appropriate committee of Parliament ahead of each Foreign Affairs Council and to debrief this committee after each Council meeting;

Other ideas include:

6. On training and consolidating a European diplomatic esprit de corps

7. On the recruitment base

  • women are under-represented in AD and senior positions, and over-represented in AST positions;
  • to oppose all attempts by the Member States to interfere with the recruitment process of EEAS staff;
  • the possibility for officials from the European Parliament to be able to apply for posts in the EEAS.

All in all, it is an interesting assessment of the EEAS, and HR/VP can find there intriguing food for thought. Nonetheless, even though the Report’s ideas are not revolutionary and too ambitious, at the current state of integration only a tiny fraction out of all of the proposals are feasible either by the EU Institutions, or by the Member States. These ideas are however like a North Star – we cannot reach it, but it is a good guide to have a look at from time to time.

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CII's Founding Member. Graduated from the Department of EU International Relations and Diplomacy, College of Europe in Bruges (Belgium) and in International Relations from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow (Poland). LLP ERASMUS stipend on the University of Vienna. In years 2012-2013 Marie Curie Researcher on EU External Action in a think tank Trans European Policy Studies Association based in Brussels. Trainee i.a. in the European Commission (Cabinet of Š. Füle, Commissioner for ENP and Enlargement), Polish MFA, European Parliament and Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Moscow. Honourable member of the International Relations Students’ Association of the Jagiellonian University.

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