European External Action Service staffing arrangements should ensure an "appropriate and meaningful presence of nationals from all the Member States" and equal opportunities for women and men, say amendments to the staff rules approved by the Legal Affairs Committee on Monday. Merit and competence must be core grounds for recruitment, they add. The revised rules will be put to a vote by the full House on Wednesday, together with changes to the EU financial regulation and 2010 budget.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) staffing rules will be laid down in the compromise text approved by a large majority in the Legal Affairs Committee. The new service will be treated as an institution for the purposes of the Staff Regulations and will form part of the Union's "independent European administration", says the text.

Rapporteur Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, DE)  welcomed the fact that geographical and gender balance are now in the articles of the regulation, thus making them "legally binding".

At least 60% EU staff

Until 30 June 2013, the EEAS will recruit officials exclusively from the Council's General Secretariat, the Commission or national diplomatic services. It should however be possible, "in exceptional cases and after having exhausted the possibilities to recruit from the three exclusive sources", to recruit technical support staff, such as crisis management, security and IT experts, from elsewhere.

In addition, to ensure that staff from national diplomatic services are properly represented in the EEAS, the High Representative will, until 30 June 2013, be able to give priority to certain posts to candidates from national diplomatic services provided they possess equivalent qualifications.

From 1 July 2013, access to EEAS posts should be opened up to officials from other EU institutions, such as the European Parliament. When the EEAS reaches its full capacity, EU officials should represent at least 60% of staff at administrator level and at least one-third of all EEAS staff should come from national diplomatic services, in line with the Madrid deal.

Equal treatment

Successful candidates from the national diplomatic services will be employed as temporary agents and thus be put on equal footing with officials. They should have the same rights and obligations and be treated equally, in particular as concerns their eligibility to assume all positions under equivalent conditions.

Staff should be recruited "on the basis of an objective and transparent procedure" and the implementing provisions to be adopted by the EEAS should guarantee "equivalent career prospects" within the EEAS for temporary agents and officials, underlines the compromise text.

The total duration of EEAS employment of staff from the national diplomatic services should not exceed eight years (the current limit for temporary agents is six years). However, in exceptional circumstances and in the interest of the service, at the end of the eighth year, the contract may be extended for a maximum of two years (i.e., total of 10 years). Each EU Member State must provide its officials who become EEAS temporary agents with a "guarantee of immediate reinstatement at the end of their period of service to the EEAS", states the compromise.

Geographical and gender balance

Recruitment or engagement should be directed to securing for the EEAS the services of officials and temporary staff of the "highest standard of ability, efficiency and integrity, recruited on the broadest possible geographical basis from among nationals of Member States". This will apply to the EEAS as a whole and also to each of its various staff components. EEAS staff should comprise an "appropriate and meaningful presence of nationals from all the Member States", according to the text.

In a written statement, the High Representative undertakes to "use all the possibilities offered in the application of the EEAS appointment procedure to achieve these objectives". The EEAS "should profit fully from the diversity and wealth of experience and expertise developed in the various Foreign Services in the Union", Ms Ashton says.

To ensure a gender balance in the new diplomatic service, the agreed text also states that appropriate measures should be taken to promote equal opportunities for the under-represented gender in certain function groups. Ms Ashton pledges that, "on the basis of the experience of the appointment procedure for the 2010 rotation of Heads of Delegation, the EEAS will examine how to take the often non-linear patterns of female application better into account in future appointment procedures and how to remove other possible obstacles", in order to promote the employment of women in the service.

By mid-2013, the High Representative will table a report on the implementation of this regulation, with a particular emphasis on gender and geographical balance of EEAS staff.

Appointment of Heads of Delegation

Heads of Delegation are to be appointed via a "thorough selection procedure, based on merit and having regard to gender and geographical balance", from a list of candidates on which the Commission has agreed. The Commission has stated that it will "duly motivate vis-à-vis the High Representative any negative opinion it might express concerning a person on the list of candidates".

This regulation should enter into force at the earliest possible date, since the amendments to the Staff Regulations and Conditions of Employment constitute a necessary condition for the proper functioning of the EEAS, adds the Committee.

Rapporteur: Bernhard Rapkay (S&D, DE)
In the chair: Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP, DE)