External Action Service: Much ado about nothing

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) certainly does not signify the advent of a new dynamism in the EU's common foreign policy. There are too many differences between the interests of the various countries and the positions of the EU institutions and in the long term, all that remains is the hope that the EEAS will have the effect of a large socialisation structure, writes Stefani Weiss of the Bertelsmann Stiftung in a June publication.

The following is the conclusion of 'The European External Action Service: Much Ado About Nothing' by Stefani Weiss of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

To read the publication in full, please click here.

''The tug-of-war surrounding the EEAS lasted for seven months, and no-one really came out on top. It is true, of course, that the [European] Commission gave nothing away, but it has not been able to prove that another bout of bureaucracy in the area of foreign policy is good for Europe, and presumably will not be able to prove it either.

The EP [European Parliament] wanted a great deal, and it wanted the right kind of things, and managed to get its way in certain areas. However, the EP's central demand, which was that the EEAS should be assigned to the Commission, was clearly asking for too much, especially since it was easy to blame it for the delays.

In the member states, the foreign ministries themselves have been consigned more and more to the sidelines and the heads of state and government have taken things into their own hands. But they seem to be farther away than ever from embracing the EEAS. Yet that would be a significant precondition if it is going to be a success. But on the other hand they have not managed to show how each acting on his own can still make a difference in the international arena.

It is clearly a drawback that when the EEAS was introduced, conceptual and strategic ideas on how the service can be beneficial for both the member states and the EU as a whole were not deemed to be important.

There is no mission statement. Whether the service will tend to place the emphasis on classical diplomacy – or whether it will pursue new and more comprehensive approaches in which diplomacy, development and security are included in an overall context and topics such as climate change are included – continues to be an unanswered question.

At the moment, all that remains is the hope that the EEAS will have the effect of a large socialisation structure. Since Commission civil servants, Council civil servants and national diplomats will be forced to work together under one roof in the EEAS, the differences which are still so noticeable today, and the question of where someone comes from and to whom he has to be loyal, may in the long term be overcome to make way for a European esprit de corps.

It remains to be seen whether the Europeans still have enough time for this to happen.''

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