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EU diplomatic service: Parliament gives go-ahead to Madrid deal

External relations - 08-07-2010 - 13:18
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Two weeks after the Madrid deal on setting up the European External Action Service (EEAS), a package of recommendations on its organisation and working methods was approved by the European Parliament on Thursday. The EEAS is a major new development introduced by the Lisbon Treaty.

Although Parliament was only formally consulted on the organisation and functioning of the EEAS, MEPs negotiated substantial changes to EU High Representative Catherine Ashton's original plans put forward in March. The service's "Community identity" will be strengthened and its political and budgetary accountability to Parliament is ensured, according to Parliament's negotiators, Elmar Brok (EPP, DE), Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE) and Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, IT).
 
Today's resolution asks the Council to notify Parliament if it intends to depart from the resolution and also asks Council to consult Parliament again if it intends to amend the High Representative's proposal. The resolution was adopted by 549 votes to 78 with 17 abstentions.
 
The EEAS will help the High Representative (HR) in conducting the EU's foreign policy and ensuring that its external policy is consistent. The HR is also Vice-President of the Commission and President of the Foreign Affairs Council.
 
Who stands in when the High Representative is absent?
 
MEPs were reluctant to see civil servants (such as the executive secretary general) deputise for Lady Ashton when briefing Parliament. Instead they have won an undertaking that, where necessary, she will be replaced either by the EU commissioners for enlargement, development or humanitarian aid or by the foreign affairs minister of the country holding the EU presidency.
 
External co-operation
 
Control over EU external co-operation programmes (development and neighbourhood policies) will remain the responsibility of the Commission, contrary to Ms Ashton's original proposal, which would have given more power to the EEAS.
 
Proposals for changes in development policy (European Development Fund and Development Co-operation Instrument) will be prepared jointly by the EEAS and the Commission, under the Commissioner's responsibility, and then jointly submitted for a Commission decision.
 
EEAS: at least 60% to be EU staff
 
MEPs have also won an undertaking that at least 60% of EEAS staff will be made up of permanent EU officials. This will guarantee the diplomatic service's Community identity. Officials from national diplomatic services - to constitute one third of the staff when the service has reached full capacity - will be temporary agents for a duration of up to eight years with a possible extension of two years.
 
Recruitment will be "based on merit whilst ensuring adequate geographical and gender balance", says Mr Brok's report. Measures to correct possible "imbalances" could be taken during the 2013 review of the service. These measures would analogous to the ones taken when new Member States joined the EU in 2004.
 
On 1 January 2011, a total of 1,525 civil servants from the Commission and the Council's General Secretariat will be transferred to the EEAS and 100 new posts have been created. The total figure is 1625. Recourse to seconded national experts will be limited and these experts will not be counted as staff from Member States (one third of the total).
 
Headquarters and basic organisation
 
The EEAS will have its headquarters in Brussels and will be made up of a central administration and the 136 former Commission delegations.
 
The central administration will be organised in directorates-general comprising geographic desks covering all countries and regions of the world, as well as multilateral desks.
 
The statement on the service's basic organisation stipulates that there will a human rights structure at headquarters level and locally in the delegations as well as a department assisting the HR in her relations with Parliament. On crisis management and peace-building, the statement says that common security and defence policy (CSDP) structures will be part of the EEAS.
 
Political and budgetary accountability
 
The service's political and budgetary accountability to Parliament is guaranteed, with full budget discharge rights over the service.
 
The operational budget will be the Commission's responsibility. Parliament will receive from the Commission a document clearly accounting for the external action parts of the Commission budget, including the establishment plans of the Union's delegations, as well as the external action expenditure per country and per mission. The EEAS administrative budget will be in a new section X "European External Action service".
 
Before taking up their posts, EU Special Representatives and Heads of Delegations to countries and organisations which Parliament considers "strategically important" will appear before the Foreign Affairs Committee.
 
The HR will also seek Parliament's views on key CFSP policy options and MEPs holding institutional roles will have access to confidential documents.
 
The Foreign Affairs Committee and the Budgets Committee bureaus will have stronger scrutiny rights over CFSP missions financed out of the EU budget.
 
MEPs also expressed their wish to strengthen ties with national parliaments.
 
Next steps
 
Changes to the Financial Regulation, the Staff Regulation and the 2010 budget, on which Parliament has joint decision-making powers with Council, will be put to the vote after the summer recess and after the Council has endorsed Parliament's position on the operation of the service.
 
One month after the entry-into-force of the EEAS decision, Baroness Ashton is to present to the Commission an estimate of the EEAS revenue and expenditure, with a view to drafting an amending budget.
 
REF.: 20100707IPR78056