Two years on, the European External Action Service (EEAS) cannot be expected to be fully functional. Yet more can be done to improve its coordination with the Commission and the Council, political leadership, visibility and accountability, MEPs said in a vote on Thursday. In their input to this summer's review of the EU's new diplomatic corps, they also call for a sharper focus on strategic planning and crisis response delivery.
The EEAS structure must be streamlined and current duplication of services in the Commission and Council secretariat must stop, to make it fit for 21st century diplomacy, MEPs say. They add that EEAS decision-making must also be made more consistent, timely and cost efficient.
"The glass is half full rather than half empty", commented Elmar Brok (EPP, DE), who led the debates on Parliament's recommendation together with Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, IT). "We would like to see more synergies with the Commission and a simpler chain of command at the EEAS," he added, citing EEAS successes in Serbia and Kosovo but a slow EU response to the crisis in Mali.
"The EEAS is a key asset for the creation of a truly European foreign policy," Mr Gualtieri said, adding that "The current review should lead to a constructive improvement of its functioning, which must, among other things, result in unifying crisis management units and improving recruitment".
Strengthen High Representative's role as Commission Vice-President
To make the EU's external action more consistent and efficient, the foreign affairs High Representative's role as Vice-President of the Commission should be strengthened. For example, the High Representative should chair the group of external relations commissioners, and be supported by a political deputy or deputies answerable to Parliament, says the text.
Equip EU delegations to serve EU interests
EU delegations need staff with the right skills to match EU needs and promote EU interests in each country or region. Security and defence attachés are needed, especially in fragile countries and human rights and women's rights in particular must be brought into the mainstream of EU foreign policy, MEPs say.
To achieve economies of scale, certain diplomatic and consular services could be pooled at EU level and delegations should be enabled to provide consular protection to EU citizens from member states not individually represented in a given country.
More political accountability to the EP
New heads of delegations across the world should attend confirmation hearings before the relevant European Parliament committees before they take up their duties, MEPs say. Parliament's oversight is vital to enhance the legitimacy of EU external action and ensure it is understood by EU citizens, the text adds.
The resolution was passed by 501 votes to 96, with 13 abstentions.
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution