The European External Action Service will be launched next Wednesday (1 December) after a year of wrangling between the European Union’s institutions over its set-up and competencies. But the date is primarily symbolic: the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, which gave rise to the EEAS. In practice, the EEAS will begin with just a handful of senior officials, led by Pierre Vimont, until recently France’s ambassador to Washington, his two deputies, Helga Schmid and Maciej Popowski, and David O’Sullivan, the service’s head of administration.
For the EU’s foreign policy structures, the big change will happen on 1 January – but only if the member states and MEPs agree in time on an EU budget for 2011. Their negotiations are currently deadlocked (see Page 4). On that day, 1,114 officials from the European Commission and 411 officials from the secretariat of the Council of Ministers are to be transferred out of their existing institutions into the new service. Only then will the EEAS have the workforce to fulfil its duty of planning and implementing the Union’s foreign policy. Should there be no agreement on the 2011 budget, the officials will remain in their current posts. An official involved in the preparations for the new diplomatic service said that they were proceeding on the assumption that a budget compromise would be found.
The transfer in January means the end of the Commission’s department for external relations. It also means the end of the Commission’s department for development in its current form: 100 country experts will go into the EEAS and the remaining 200 officials will become part of a directorate-general for EuropeAid Development and Co-operation, which will also take in the 600 officials of the current EuropeAid Co-operation Office.
Other Commission departments with activities related to foreign policy, such as trade, energy, environment and climate action, will liaise with the EEAS through a seven-member unit of the Commission’s secretariat-general.
The leadership of the EEAS will move next week into offices in the Berlaymont, close to the offices of Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, to whom they report. The rest of the EEAS staff are expected to remain in their current office buildings for four or five months, until new accommodation is ready in the Capital building at Brussels’ Rond-Point Schuman.
Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, is to appoint in the coming weeks the heads of the EEAS’s six geographic and thematic departments. They are expected to include Hugues Mingarelli and Stefano Sannino, currently deputy directors-general of the Commission’s department for external relations; Tomás Duplá del Moral, a director in the same department; Christian Leffler, the Commission’s deputy director-general for development; and Miroslav Lajcák, until recently Slovakia’s foreign minister. Ashton is currently holding interviews for these positions.
The appointment of Claude-France Arnould, the current head of the Council secretariat’s directorate for crisis management and planning, as the new chief executive of the European Defence Agency (EDA) hangs in the balance. Italy has withheld its backing because it wants the job to go to Carlo Magrassi, the EDA’s deputy chief executive. Magrassi has been standing in since Alexander Weis, a German, left last month. The EDA is not part of the EEAS, which will have at least one senior Italian official – Agostino Miozzo – as crisis co-ordinator.
Ashton announced on Tuesday (23 November) that Angelos Pangratis would be the head of the EU’s delegation to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva. Pangratis, a Greek national, is currently deputy head of the EU’s delegation in Washington, DC and will serve as the EU’s chief trade negotiator at the WTO, overseeing a delegation that will largely consist of Commission officials rather than EEAS staff since trade is a Commission competence. The EU is to have another delegation in Geneva dealing primarily with the United Nations and its agencies; its head is to be named in the coming weeks.
On Tuesday (30 November), MEPs on the foreign affairs committee will hold a discussion with Philip Dimitrov, a former Bulgarian prime minister who has been appointed as the EU’s next ambassador to Georgia. Dimitrov’s appearance is the first in a series agreed between the committee and Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief. The following day, Markus Ederer, a German who has been appointed ambassador to China, and Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, an Austrian who is to be the new ambassador to Japan, will appear before the committee. Angelina Eichhorst, the new ambassador to Lebanon, and Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, the new ambassador to Pakistan, will follow in December and January. Eichhorst is Dutch, Wigemark is Swedish.
MEPs have no authority over the appointment of EU ambassadors, and Parliament officials were careful to describe the format of the meetings as an “exchange of views” rather than a hearing. They are to take place behind closed doors, as requested by Ashton, who had previously forbidden newly-appointed ambassadors to appear at public hearings scheduled by MEPs without consultation.
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