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The New “Foreign” Service Of The EU

  • July 13th, 2012
  • Posted by EUEditor

eeas-observer.jpgAlready a strong presence in global business, the European Union is steadily putting into effect a decision to expand its influence with the formation of a task force, now a part of the formal EU structure.

Danika Ferguson, in Brussels, reports on the progress and effectiveness of the European External Action Service (EEAS), more than a year on from its inception.


eeas.jpgThe European Union is made up of many separate branches to help manage the enormous responsibility and global actions undertaken by its departments.

The three key branches are the executive, the European Commission, appointed by the European Parliament; the European Parliament itself, directly elected by the public; and the European Council, composed of Ministers from the 27 national governments, (the prime incarnation of the Council being Heads of Government, meeting at the summit).

Sometimes they are called “the head”, “heart” and “voice” of the European Union.

The European Commission is considered the brains of the EU, where  policies are initiated and drafted, to be followed by  for all the member states. It employs an army of highly credentialed and skilled researchers to establish the sense of its proposals.

The European Parliament is the “heart”, because its members are publicly elected to discuss the logical alignment of drafted policies.

The European Council is the held to be the “voice”, of reason, or at least of reasoning-out of policies, in the politicians’ way. Council members discuss issues with national interest in mind, and decide whether policies should be implemented, or sent back to where they originated – to the Parliament or to the Commission’s drawing board.


Under the terms of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, ratified by the member governments, a fourth branch was established to create a unified response, to pursue the goals of the EU’s head, heart and voice, in the “outside” world.

The EEAS will conduct diplomacy on an issue where the full EU membership is in accord, as in the case of the EU’s part in international pressure being applied to the Syrian government, to desist from attacking members of its own civilian population, or on Iran, not to build a nuclear arsenal.

It also coordinates the joint action of its members to support the practice of democratic government, defence of human rights, and observance of the rule of law — and assists with development cooperation and humanitarian work.


The European Union was seeing itself as not fully effective in external relations, because it was a body of coordinated, but separate foreign affairs operations.

The new organisation has focused on pursuing three “C’s” – consistency, coordination and coherence.


A key part of it is the creation of the position of High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

The person in that role manages the establishment and operations of the EEAS, and so is the chief diplomat or “foreign minister” of the EU; and they gain additional legitimacy, and power, by also becoming a Vice President of the European Commission.

ashton_headshot2.jpgThat individual in 2012 is Baroness Catherine Ashton from the United Kingdom,  formerly a leading figure in Labour governments there, and a former European Commissioner; appointed on 1.12.09, the day the Lisbon Treaty came in to force.

Previously she’d had relevant, key involvements, such as a leading role in trade talks with China.


eeas-burma-talks.jpegSome of the key priorities in EEAS work include creating a secure, stable and prosperous “Euro” neighbourhood, i.e. neighbouring states around the EU, and maintaining close relations with strategic partners.

The neighbourhood concern of the EU is with “markets, money, and mobility” of people and goods.

In regard to Strategic Partnerships, the EEAS considers open dialogue between countries as a valuable tool to creating strong and effective foreign policies.

Countries in a strategic relationship with the EU include the USA, Canada, Korea, Ukraine, Japan, Russia, Brazil, China, India and Mexico.


Australia does not have an existing strategic partnership with the EU, though it has begun negotiations to enter into a binding “Framework” agreement, for regular working-together on a list of concerns, from counter-terrorism, to common information technology regimens, to trade.

Already seated on behalf of the EU at international gatherings, such as the “G20” consultations on world economic issues, the external service looks set to emerge also as a world leader in human rights issues.

The EEAS is currently in a transition phase.

eeas-logo.jpgOne close observer of the process, the Australian Ambassador to the European Union, Brendan Nelson, says it has done well establishing an identity,  and will be “worth watching” over the coming five or six years.

Already over 133 EU delegations have been set up around the world, the seventh largest, in parallel with the foreign services of the EU nations.