Wednesday 7 October 2009

EU “diplomatic service”: All shock and horror?

Bruno Waterfield is one of the knowledgeable British journalists covering the European Union, but somehow The Telegraph seems to have a craving for shock and horror with regard to the European Union. Sinister global power ambitions, secret dealings, dubious legal personality for the EU, “embassies” and high symbolism are sprung on an unsuspecting British public in “EU draws up plans to establish itself as a ‘world power’ ” (7 October 2009).


After a few predictably shocked commentators with an immaculate Euroskeptic (= anti-EU) pedigree, deep down the article explains that the European Community has been able to negotiate international treaties for ages.

The Lisbon Treaty merges the separate European Community into the European Union, which inherits the legal personality.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) is part of the Lisbon Treaty, so preparatory work is finally under way after the treaty was democratically approved in Ireland, the 27th and last member state.

Some preparatory work is always needed before publication, in any administration.

Hopefully, the proposals are going to be made public before the Council and the European Council decide on the practical steps to implement the Lisbon Treaty.

The Swedish Presidency of the EU Council has an opportunity to foster a new and better culture of openness, still in its infancy with regard to the Council. All issues pertaining to the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty are of interest to the public.


European Parliament

The European Parliament wants the European External Action Service to be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, as shown by the 6 October 2009 press release “EU diplomatic service: Parliament urged to fast-track its position”.

The press release contains a summary of what the EEAS is about:

“Consisting of officials from the Commission, Council and Member States, the EEAS will assist the High Representative for external relations. The Council will decide how to organise the service on the basis of a proposal from the High Representative.”

The concerns of the European Parliament arise from the fact that important areas of EU external action – foreign and security policy – are subject to intergovernmental cooperation in a pre-democratic union, which means that the role of the Parliament is not fully developed.

The press release quotes the Socialist shadow rapporteur Adrian Severin (S&D, RO):

"We do not yet have a coherent European foreign policy. Thus, we should have coherent institutional arrangements.”

Those, who are interested in the European Parliament’s views, can read the Draft report on institutional aspects of setting up the European External Action Service, by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) (23 September 2009; rapporteur Elmar Brok).


The European Union is not going to become a world power by rearranging and enhancing the European Community’s foreign representations, but it is a step towards an improved presence for Europe in the capitals of the world.

Openness is one way to reduce the amount of sensationalist reporting.

Ralf Grahn


  1. Ralf, helpful post, thank you. Sadly, the EU press announcement is too much bureaucratic babble and not enough straightforward explanation.

    When I was taught how to write employee statements, I was told to think "Daily Mirror" (OK that shows my age - maybe Daily Mail now?). But the message was "don't use big words when a few more little ones will do". The same goes for EU and other government's press releases, I suspect.

  2. French Derek,

    A camel is a horse drawn by a committee, or something like that, you seem to think.

    Goes for much of the press releases from the EU institutions.

    Here there may be some 'real' problems to complicate matters:

    Part of the problem is that the European Parliament wants to advance its positions under the Lisbon Treaty, but it is a delicate operation when they are seen to be trespassing on intergovernmental ground.

    The member states come out with a shotgun.

    The EP attempts to get a grip on substance through the budget (but I am not sure that the member states are going to allow foreign and security policy funds into the budget; leaving only 'Community' action).

    Somehow it reminds me of the development of British parliamentary democracy, a slow and winding process.


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