The European External Action Service (EEAS) – designed as the foreign policy arm of the EU, with Catherine Ashton as the first EU foreign policy chief under the Lisbon Treaty – needs proper political leadership by its head, simpler structures, better co-ordination and more long-term strategic planning and it must be more accountable to Parliament, foreign affairs MEPs said on April 23 2013 in their review of the EU’s new diplomatic corps two years after it was set up.
The EEAS was officially launched in January 2011.
The EEAS must be streamlined and duplication of services in the Commission and the Council Secretariat must end to allow for effective decision-making and timely policy responses, MEPs say. They suggest that the EU foreign policy chief should chair the group of external relations commissioners and be supported by a political deputy or deputies, answerable to the European Parliament.
There should be more focus on strategic planning and more consistency between short and longer-term measures, MEPs argue. They advocate an “appropriate structure”, similar to a crisis board, bringing together members of different departments in charge of crisis management and response.
MEPs demand that new heads of the delegations across the world attend confirmation hearings before relevant Parliament committees before they take up their duties. Key EP office holders should receive full political reporting from delegations, they add. They also call for systematic exchanges with appropriate committees ahead of each foreign affairs council.
The delegations should have a security and defence attaché to guarantee adequate monitoring of political developments, especially in fragile countries, MEPs underline. They should also do more to incorporate human rights in their work, with particular attention to women’s rights. MEPs point out that the delegations require staff with the requisite skills and competences to reflect and serve the needs and interests of the EU in its relations with the country or region concerned.
The delegations should be also enabled to provide consular protection to EU citizens from those member states not represented in that country, MEPs say, emphasising that any additional tasks must be matched with fresh resources.
The committee’s resolution, drafted by Elmar Brok (EPP, DE) and Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, IT) and adopted by 38 votes to 12, with one abstention, is scheduled for a vote in the full House in Strasbourg in June.
The final resolution will constitute the European Parliament’s input to the 2013 EEAS review report, currently being prepared by EU foreign policy chief Ashton and due to be published in summer.
(Photo of Ashton: EC Audiovisual Service)