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Saturday, May 8, 2010

The battle for the EEAS, 05, 2010

Today, let's talk about EEAS - the new European diplomatic service.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding EEAS recently, not without reason I think. The main problem - the proposed structure was too centralised and all the roads led to France. Weather this is a bad thing or a good is another question, but after all, too much power focused in the hands of anyone is dangerous and likely to lead to corruption. For example, in the first article, you may read about the dubious expenses of different diplomatic services which spent and spent without any justification. All they needed was a signature of their boss. Convenient, huh?

Fortunately for us all, the Parliament took the right action and put Ashton under heavy fire. The result is a new plan, which from what I read isn't exactly strictly structured, but at least, Ashton got the message that she cannot do as she pleases. Even better, now she has 3 deputies, one of them - Kristalina Georgieva, the Bulgarian Commissioner who I really respect. And this is good not only because we have another Bulgarian on high place, but because we see how the Commission finally starts getting really interconnected. Because life is much more complicated than one person working in one field, another - in other. Now everything is a mess in the good and bad sense of the word, so we have to have an adequate approach to the different situations. In the case of Ashton, really, where or when was she in Haiti? I don't hear her name except for her weird ideas of EEAS. She is supposed to be a public figure, but she's not really public, right? I don't blame her for her bad French, nobody ought to speak French, no matter what people in France think. I speak French, because I like the language, but I like less and less the country. Anyway, I think Kathrine Ashton should consider very carefully her role in European politics. If I got to be hired in her position in such a miraculous way, I would work my ass off, to improve the EU. No matter if I please or not the people who made me that gift. But in the end, it's all about the EU. I agree with Buzek - in times like this, we need a strong EU. And there are very serious attempts to undermine the EU's stability. That is a fact. And in such situations, all the institutions must work together to help to make the EU stronger. And not to disappear until the next vote in UK, Germany or wherever. This is simply not right.
Back on the subject, I pasted some articles you might find very interesting in perspective. The battle in the Parliament, the battle in the EC, the moves of Ashton and the final decision, which was approval for her new not-so-centralized version. No words for improved accountability. Which is not so good, but I guess they know what they are doing. After all ever minister has relatives who have to work somewhere. Sad but true. And note how she tried to bribe the MEPs by offering them VIP treatment! Unbelievable...
Well, that's our EU for the moment. Maybe one day, if people get more interested, things will change. But for now, that's it folks.
  1. EEAS 'incoherence' would breed corruption, Greens warn
  2. Parliament pulls its weight in EEAS negotiations
  3. Three commissioners to act as Ashton's deputies
  4. Buzek suggests electing EU commissioners
  5. Ashton presents new architecture for EU diplomatic service

EEAS 'incoherence' would breed corruption, Greens warn

23 March 2010
There are scandalous cases of corruption in EU peace missions and there would be many more if "grey zones" are not removed from blueprints for setting up the European External Action Service (EEAS), the Green group warned today (23 March).

There are clear cases of corruption in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and if Parliament does not speak up, a similar system that breeds corruption could be reproduced in the EEAS, German MEP Franziska Brantner (Greens/EFA group) told journalists.

"There are EU special representatives that have monthly travel budgets of roughly 100,000 euros. And when you ask them 'where do you fly to?', you don't get any answers," she said.

Under the current system, "you only need the head of the mission to sign," the German MEP said. "It's incredible. There is no budget line for our mission in Somalia. We don't know how much has been spent in Somalia on staff, on building, etc. It's very opaque," she lamented.

Brantner said that the Lisbon Treaty stipulated one major requirement for the EEAS: that it should be coherent.

"Coherence must be the yardstick against which we judge the proposals on the table. So far that has not happened," she said, referring to an organigram circulated by Catherine Ashton's services detailing a very loose chain of command for EU peace-keeping activities.

In particular, Brantner pointed to the CMPD, the recently established Crisis Management and Planning Directorate and the CPCC, the Civilian Implementation Unit responsible for actually carrying out EU missions, which according to the organigram have no common hierarchy except for the secretary-general of the EEAS.

In her eyes, the EEAS secretary-general appears to be an official with more power than Ashton herself.

CMPD and CPCC will still receive money from the Commission under what Brantner described as a "system where nobody is responsible".

Instead, she called for the establishment of a peace-building department, which would integrate both the Commission and Council's operations - the stability instrument and the CFSP budget respectively - as well as EU missions.source

Parliament pulls its weight in EEAS negotiations

24 March 2010
Quality is more important than speed in setting up the European External Action Service (EEAS), leading MEPs said on Tuesday (23 March), signalling that political thinking in Brussels had evolved and that there was no rush to take decisions before the UK elections.

Brok and Verhofstadt tabled a 'non-paper' outlining the EU assembly's views regarding the Union's future diplomatic service.

The document is accompanied by an organisational chart which is strikingly different from the one which had already emerged from the services of EU foreign affairs and security chief Catherine Ashton.

Brok and Verhofstadt insisted that their text represented the Parliament's views across party lines, a position confirmed by Socialist & Democrats (S&D) MEP Adrian Severin, a former Romanian foreign minister present at the conference.

Compared to the Ashton draft, MEPs want a diplomatic service that is much closer to the European Commission. They also insist that Ashton must be referred to as the HR/VP - High Representative and Commission Vice-President - as her full title indicates.

Brok attacked in particular what he described as the "French-style" post of secretary-general, envisaged under Ashton's draft, whom he said would run the EEAS web "like a spider".

Instead, the parliamentarians are proposing that Ashton be assisted by three deputies: one dealing with bilateral affairs, another with multilateral issues and the third dealing with crisis management.

Speaking to the Parliament's foreign affairs committee, Ashton said the EU Assembly had "a right" to be involved in the process and rejected the interpretation that the EEAS would be "less communautaire" than the Commission.

She also insisted that the influence of Parliament would not only be "ex ante" through the budget procedure, but also "ex post" through standard budgetary control procedures.

Answering a question from Kristian Vigenin (S&D; Bulgaria) as to how she was planning to have "a proper geographical distribution of posts, which is important for new and small member countries," Ashton said she wanted "all member states to be represented but it will take time".

Last but not least, Ashton assured MEPs that they would be offered VIP treatment by her services when travelling abroad. source

Three commissioners to act as Ashton's deputies

17 March 2010
Catherine Ashton, the EU's recently-appointed foreign policy chief, will be able to trim her busy work schedule and counter criticism of her lack of visibility thanks to the assistance of three EU commissioners, who will act as her deputies.

Štefan Füle, the Czech commissioner for enlargement, Andris Piebalgs, his Latvian colleague responsible for development, and Kristalina Georgieva, the Bulgarian commissioner for humanitarian aid, will all assist Ashton, a Commission official said.

Catherine Ashton has endured attacks from several quarters, including French ministers, for not flying the EU flag at hotspots such as earthquake-hit Haiti or being unable to attend European gatherings.

But Commission representatives said the situation was going to change, as the EU's first-ever High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, who is also commissioner for external relations, will now be able to use colleagues as deputies.

The Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in December last year, does not provide any deputies for the EU's foreign policy chief. However, when European Commission President José Manuel Barroso first disclosed his new team, asterisks were marked against the names of three commissioners to indicate that they would work in "close cooperation" with Ashton.

By the same token, national ministers from the 27-member bloc are equally "useable," on the basis of a pre-agreed mandate, to carry the EU's message, the official continued.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, for instance, is widely acknowledged as a Middle East expert, while Sweden's Carl Bildt has extensive expertise in Western Balkan troubleshooting.

However, the official admitted that the procedures for working out such "deputising" were not yet clear. "We will have to see how deputising will go on in practice," he said.

Large EU countries such as France and Germany are struggling to place their diplomats in key positions in the EEAS, including the open position of secretary-general and the two deputy secretary-general jobs.

But according to sources, what those countries are seeking is influence in the EEAS kitchen rather than political visibility. source

Buzek suggests electing EU commissioners

23 March 2010
Jerzy Buzek, the Polish president of the European Parliament, has suggested that future EU commissioners should compete in Europe-wide elections to get a "democratic mandate".

Buzek, who is on a two-day visit in Berlin, made his proposal during a speech delivered at Humboldt University on Monday (22 March), according to the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

He suggested a "parlamentarisation" of the European Commission, which he claimed decides about 65% of the laws adopted at the national level.

"We do not need to change the treaties," Buzek said. "We just have to convince the EU countries to add their commissioner candidates to the lists for the European elections," he explained.

"These people could be leaders of these lists," he added. "Future commissioners who will compete in the European elections will have a democratic mandate, because they will be elected by universal suffrage," Buzek explained.

"Citizens and politicians need to know that today by weakening Europe we don't reinforce nation states. [On the contrary] we weaken them," he said.

"In a globalised world, there won't be strong national countries in Europe if there is no strong European Union. The globalised world undermines EU nation states," Buzek added. source

Ashton presents new architecture for EU diplomatic service

26 April 2010
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has presented a revised blueprint for the European External Action Service (EEAS) which has been stripped off previous plans for a detailed organisational chart, EurActiv has learned.

Ashton's revised proposal is due to be discussed by EU foreign ministers on 26 April and will have to be approved by the European Parliament before it can come into effect.

The new version has been stripped of earlier plans for a detailed organisational chart, which had caused controversy because the top position in the new administration appeared to have been tailor-made for a French-style 'énarque' (EurActiv 30/03/10).

The reason for this, he explained, was that Ashton did not want to be bound by a strict administrative structure and the service should be allowed to evolve over time.

From the outset, it appeared that Ashon's tactics were to present a sketchy proposal in order to maximise her chances of getting it through the EU's Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, which both have a say on the new service (EurActiv 22/03/10).

Although it cannot co-legislate on the structure of the future diplomatic service, the Parliament can veto the financial aspects of the plan.

Retracting earlier plans to install a powerful secretary-general on top of the EU's new diplomatic service, Ashton is this time proposing a "collegial leadership" of three high officials, one of whom would preside over the EEAS in her absence.

This official, seen as primus inter pares – first among equals – would be referred to as an "executive secretary- general," the ambassador said.

Ironically, the diplomat said Ashton would have a wider choice of deputies at a higher political level. One option would be for her to be assisted by the three commissioners in charge of external relations – namely Štefan Füle, the Czech commissioner for enlargement, Andris Piebalgs, his Latvian colleague responsible for development, and Kristalina Georgieva, the Bulgarian commissioner for humanitarian aid (EurActiv 15/03/10).

The second option is that she would be assisted by the 27 EU member states' foreign ministers, whose meetings Ashton will organise. The third possibility is that she will on occasion be represented by special EU envoys appointed for concrete missions, as is the way in the United States. source

Stop turf wars over EEAS, top diplomats plead -

""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."-

EU institutions preparing staff nationality quotas - The European Commission will present the priorities of its 2010-2014 energy action plan during a meeting of energy ministers at the end of May.

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