The European Union must quickly push ahead with forming its own diplomatic service or it risks falling behind the likes of China and India in the world order, top diplomats warned yesterday (26 April) after EU ministers reached "political agreement" on European External Action Service (EEAS), which still awaits MEPs' green light.
"The Council reached a political orientation on a draft decision on the establishment of the European External Action Service, as provided for under the Treaty of Lisbon, on the basis of the proposal presented by High Representative Catherine Ashton on 25 March. Today's agreement provides a basis for consulting the European Parliament," reads the official communiqué of the foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg.
"I am very pleased that the [EU] Council has reached a political agreement based on my proposal," said EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.
It remains unclear if and how Parliament will try to impact upon the Council's decision. Up to now, the EU assembly's three main political groups have been claiming that Ashton's proposal, which formed the basis of the Council's decision, does not reflect "the Community interest" (EURACTIV 21/04/10).
Speaking on the sidelines of the Luxembourg meeting, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said it was time for turf wars to end in order to allow the EEAS to start work.
"Every day that we lose right now is too late," Stubb said of delays in forming the new European diplomatic corps, which is expected to have up to 7,000 staff, including 4,500 diplomats abroad, and have missions in more than 130 countries.
"We live in a new, multi-polar world with a plethora of players ranging from China to Brazil, India and Russia. They could not care less if Europe cannot get its act together. We simply must get something out today."
"We have a new institution and that is the diplomatic service of the EU. It's time to stop the Brussels-centred infighting and the institutional fundamentalism. We simply have to give a green light to this," he said.
That process of Parliament leaving its mark on EEAS could take months, people familiar with the process say. The best estimates for the EEAS to formally begin operations as a stand-alone foreign service – the newest in the world – are sometime in September, diplomats say.
(EURACTIV with Reuters.)