Full text 
Verbatim report of proceedings
Wednesday, 11 May 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

20. European External Action Service

  President. The next item is the Oral Question to the Commission by Jo Leinen, on behalf of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, on institutional aspects of the European External Action Service (B6-233/05).


  Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (NL) Mr President, I think that we as Members of this House have the duty to find out about the exact starting time of debates, and there is no excuse whatsoever for absence. We have sufficient means of finding out when we could attend a debate here. In addition, I should in all honesty say that since only on a rare occasion does the Commission respond to my pertinent questions, I am not all that interested in the Commission position. That is just by the by.

I have been both amazed and amused by the nervous tone of the question that the Committee Chairman, Mr-Leinen, has put. It betrays the fear of an outspoken advocate of the Constitution that one of this Constitution’s most striking innovations, namely the advent of a European External Affairs Minister, will turn out to be the intergovernmental Trojan horse. It appears that this minister and his administrative machinery, the European External Action Service, are now also causing doubts in the minds of those in favour of him, but it is far too late for that. In Die Welt of Friday, 6 May, Henry Kissinger clearly indicated that the creation of one telephone number will not solve the lack of common external policy. I can, in fact, recommend that article to you all. What matters, after all, is the content of what will be said when the telephone rings.

Once again, the European Union is making the classic mistake of cushioning the lack of political agreement with purely institutional measures. An honest analysis of these institutional measures reveals that the much-praised, but very unfortunate, construction of the double hat is disturbing the institutional balance among the European institutions. The advent of a European External Affairs Minister goes against the important maxim that the various institutions operate independently of one another. Indeed, paragraph 7 of Article I-26 stipulates that members of the Commission must not receive any instructions from any government, institution or body. It appears that this provision does not apply to the Commission’s future Vice-President. I would defy all advocates of this new role to refute this.

This minister, but also the European External Action Service, will be a constant source of interinstitutional tension, and I have not even mentioned the funding of the officials employed in that Service, and relations with national diplomacy, to which we have devoted another fine hearing, ending in many question marks. Mr Leinen doing the splits, however, is small beer compared to the athletic acrobatic skills that the future minister and leader of the external service will need to display.

As a fervent opponent to this Constitutional Treaty, I hope that it will be rejected in France, just as it will be in my own country. Should that not happen, there will be a continuing need for close monitoring on our part of this dangerous adventure called the European Union.


  Jo Leinen (PSE), rapporteur. (DE) Mr President, I have just come from a public meeting in Lorraine on the European Constitution, at which the majority of people were in favour of our having a European foreign minister and him having an External Action Service under him. I am confident that people throughout Europe take the same view of things: Eurobarometer, for example, constantly echoes the popular desire that Europe should speak to the world with a single voice. It is for that reason that provision is made for this in the European Constitution.

A foreign minister would give European values a face and speak up for European interests in the world. If he is to perform these tasks, he will, of course, need the External Action Service of which we have spoken. His dual role makes the construction rather complex, and it is to this that we must find a solution. I believe that we must do so in the spirit of the Constitution – and what is the spirit of the Constitution? It is that the former second pillar, with its rather intergovernmental approach, be integrated into the Community method. The whole point of the debates in the Convention and the Intergovernmental Conference was to integrate what was the second pillar into a European Union possessing legal personality and intended to act, both internally and externally, as a single entity.

Article 296 of the Constitution states that the foreign service shall be established through a resolution of the Council, following consultation with Parliament, and with the Commission’s consent. That is the point we are addressing today. The Commission has a part in shaping the foreign service. We, in this House, were concerned that the Council had moved on much further with its work, had started driving in fenceposts and already had definite plans in mind, while the Commission was being too hesitant and taking too reserved an approach to this issue. It is for that reason that we have, today, raised the question of how the Commission intends to ensure that the Community method is further developed and guaranteed in the foreign relations sphere, of how – in administrative and financial terms – the service is to be organised, and how Parliament will be able to monitor what it does.

We should use all available means to prevent a third bureaucracy coming into being alongside the administration of the Commission and the Council; that would be the worst possible thing to happen. The question then, of course, arises of whether the foreign service is part of the Council or of the Commission, and this is where we have to consider the existence, even now, in many countries, of delegations that could become EU embassies. I think it would be right and proper to make this service – where its organisation and budget are concerned – part of the Commission rather than of the Council.

That the Council would have a full part to play would nonetheless be guaranteed, for it is quite clear that the service would exist to implement the decisions taken by the Council as a political entity. Examples of this kind of duality exist in many countries, including in Germany, where, at certain administrative levels, offices serve both the local authorities and the State. Far from being unheard-of, it could work in this case too.

We also have to decide what the External Action Service is meant to do or refrain from doing. I do not believe it would make sense to create a mammoth authority with responsibility for every portfolio from Commissioner Mandelson’s trade to Commissioner Michel’s development policy. These must be parcelled out between a traditional foreign service, for which the foreign minister has responsibility, and other Directorates-General and Commissioners with their own remits. Having the foreign minister also as a vice-president of the Commission would, of course, allow powers and responsibilities to be concentrated in one pair of hands, and consistency to be established in this area.

We look forward with eager anticipation to what the Commission has to say to us, hoping that what is done about this important issue will be faithful to the spirit of the Constitution and will make it manifest.


  Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, the new arrangements in the field of foreign relations provided for in the Constitutional Treaty present an opportunity for the European Union to strengthen the efficiency and coherence of its external action. That is one good reason why the Constitutional Treaty should, hopefully, be ratified.

In particular, we need to bring together as far as possible the two pillars of the Union's external action: Community external relations and the common foreign and security policy. That will increase our impact, strengthen our voice and help us to promote our European values and interests worldwide. For this reason, the Commission supports the creation of the double-hatted Union Minister for Foreign Affairs. In fact, the Commission proposed this idea to the Convention. It is a logical and necessary improvement of the structure created by the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties.

The future minister, building on his experience as High Representative, will at the same time be a Vice-President of the Commission. As a member of the college, he will have access to Community competences and to the tools of the Community method, which will be essential for his tasks. It follows that we are strongly in favour of the creation of an effective European External Action Service to enable the Minister/Vice-President to do his job effectively in full respect of Community procedures.

The Constitution confirms the Commission's important responsibilities in foreign affairs, including its role in external representation of the Union and in the execution of the budget. It enhances its role of coordination and coherence in the different areas of external policy, and this will be the special responsibility of the Minister/Vice-President.

Under the Constitution, as under the present Treaty, the Commission will implement the budget under the scrutiny of Parliament. The rights of Parliament will have to be respected, both as budgetary authority for the operational and administrative budget and in its role in multiannual programming.

President Barroso and High Representative Solana have agreed to work closely together. As you know, the future proposal for the establishment of the services will be made by him as minister and decided by the Council after consulting Parliament and obtaining the consent of the Commission.

The Commission, including the Minister/Vice-President, will seek to preserve and promote the Community method, which has proved its capacity to work and achieve good results in external relations. More generally, the Commission will be active and vigilant in safeguarding the institutional balance.

Member States have started to discuss the issues concerning the establishment of the European External Action Service and are beginning to understand the complex issues involved. A process of reflection and comprehension is continuing in capitals, notably on the status of the future service. There is a general agreement that it should be of a sui generis nature, but there are differing ideas as to what this could mean in practice.

Let me say a word on the question of the administrative status of the new service in relation to the Commission and Council, which is a key point in the draft resolution of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs. The various issues concerned are still under discussion, so it is too early to give a definitive answer. The various requirements imposed by the Constitution, for instance regarding the inclusion of officials from the Commission, Council and national diplomatic services, will have to be met. The responsibility of the Commission for the execution of the budget and in relation to Community policies should be preserved. At the same time, duplication should be avoided. Synergies and efficiency should guide the preparations; stronger and more coherent external action should be the guiding principle.

The next step will be a joint progress report to be submitted by the High Representative and the Commission to the European Council in June. In this context, the views of Parliament are important, and I am therefore pleased to participate in your debate today.

I conclude by repeating that we, in the Commission, share the objective of parliamentarians to safeguard and enhance the Community method, and the role of the Commission and Parliament in this process. At the same time, I believe that we share with you the aim of creating new structures that can really contribute to improving the effectiveness, coherence and influence of the Union's policies and actions in the world.

Naturally, there are still uncertainties on various sides: Parliament, the Commission, the Council Secretariat and Member States all have their concerns. But we believe that the chances and opportunities for the Union and its institutions can, in the end, overcome those concerns. We should use this opportunity to make progress towards a stronger and more effective European foreign policy.


  President. Commissioner, we began the debate without you. Perhaps in your reply at the end of the debate, you could make some reference to the fact that you were late and explain why that was so. Since you are responsible for relations with the European Parliament, this would be helpful.


  Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (ES) Mr President, we have had to endure Mr Belder telling us what he thought, or rather what he did not think, about the Foreign Service. That is the masochism we have to suffer in this Parliament, and you, Mr President, are largely responsible for it. Having said that, however, I believe that this is a crucial issue and I am therefore delighted that the Committee on Constitutional Affairs has taken this initiative.

When we discussed this issue in the Convention, it caused enormous controversy and my friend and colleague Elmar Brok was one of the people who worked hardest to move in this direction. If you were to ask me which of the innovations in the European Constitution was the most significant, I would have no hesitation in saying the Foreign Affairs Minister.

I believe that the figure of Foreign Affairs Minister, double-hatted, that is to say, appointed by the European Council but Vice-President of the European Commission, has prospered in the end because, for the intergovernmentalists, this is a way to get their hands on the Commission’s money and staff and, for the more Communitarianists, this is a way to have a say in the Union’s foreign policy.

The way we structure this Minister's fundamental instrument, the Foreign Service, is therefore very important. And, Madam Vice-President, you have been extremely reserved. What do I mean by that? That you have told us nothing. In the document prepared by your services, you have told us that you are negotiating and that we will wait to see what happens. Well I would like to tell you that for my group, the Group of the European Peoples’ Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, this is a very important issue and that, given that foreign policy is something for governments rather than for peoples, for princes rather than peoples, as the old saying goes, we in this Parliament want control over the Union’s foreign policy. The location of the Foreign Service is therefore a crucial issue.

We will therefore examine the location for this Service very closely and my Group friends and colleagues will undoubtedly be able to tell you very clearly in their speeches where we want it to be located.


  Margrietus van den Berg, on behalf of the PSE Group. (NL) Mr President, I am approaching the subject from the angle of development cooperation. We regard the creation of the European External Action Service, following on from the European Constitution, as being of enormous importance. We see the establishment of this service as an important step towards a Europe that speaks with one voice and plays a more effective and coherent role in the world.

I want to focus on the significance of development cooperation policy as one of the cornerstones, and a major one, on which the EU’s external relations policy is based. Two concepts are central in this: independence and coordination.

With regard to independence, development cooperation is an independent area within the very broad range of external relations. This position will be reinforced in the new European Constitution, because development cooperation and humanitarian aid will form independent objectives, with their own legal basis. Since these areas of policy are pursued at Community level, the Commission and Parliament have a major role to play in them. It is of the utmost importance that this responsibility should remain with both institutions.

At the same time, though, coordination between the different components of external policy must improve. We are in favour of incorporating this service in the Commission’s remit, on the provision that the Council determines how the intergovernmental competences are fleshed out. Coordination between the different components is necessary for a coherent policy, which is an explicit requirement in the Constitution. That was, in fact, already the case in the Maastricht Treaty. Coherent policy must ensure that achieving the main objectives of development policy (the millennium objectives for development) is not being tripped up by another leg of external policy, such as trade policy or defence policy. We should also avoid duplication, for that is a waste of time and money. We should therefore join forces, also on the ground.

Finally, I should like to add that the funding of this service should not be at the expense of existing external policy budgets or achieving the millennium objectives.

The European External Action Service is an important new concept within European external policy, which we must shape carefully by respecting the Constitution’s provisions and the European Parliament’s rights. It is of the utmost importance that the Community model should be respected in this area and that the Commission should be able to maintain its role as executor of the policy.


  Andrew Duff, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Mr President, the setting-up of the External Action Service is extremely important, but it is also a very tricky thing to do successfully. Succeed, and we will have achieved functional integration on the ground in third countries, whose greater efficiency will not only project the interests of the Union more effectively across the globe, but will also percolate up to the analysis and planning level in Brussels.

The Foreign Minister needs a first-class service to fuel him with the resources and intelligence he needs and also to recruit and train a diplomatic service that is properly European.

I welcome the Commissioner’s cautious statement, but it is quite clear that agreement is far from being achieved inside the Council, especially between the interests of the smaller and larger Member States, and some of the principal problems remain to be resolved.

The Commission must certainly seek to recruit the trust of the foreign ministries of the Member States, but it also needs to preserve the special prerogatives and experience that it has acquired over decades across the policy spectrum, from development to the environment and, of course, including trade.

Parliament is clearly nervous that the President of the Commission could be reduced to being the Union’s Minister for the Interior while leaving the complete foreign dimension to the Foreign Minister/Vice-President. That would emasculate the Commission and do a great disservice to all concerned.


  Irena Belohorská (NI). (SK) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen. The question of the distinguished MEP, Mr Leinen, was asked as the Member States set about ratifying the Constitutional Treaty. I am happy that my country, Slovakia, today ratified this Constitutional Treaty, all the more so that I have been involved in drafting it.

It is in accordance with this Constitutional Treaty that the European Parliament should prepare itself for playing a new strengthened role. Until now, the European Parliament has had but a minimal influence in the foreign policy area, which was largely exercised through decision-making powers with regard to the budget. We should realise that the European Parliament is the only European institution directly elected by the citizens. We should therefore eliminate the democratic deficit and make sure that the European Parliament is directly involved in the decision-making process with regard to foreign policy. The European Parliament should not be merely consulted. The shaping of the European Union’s position in foreign policy may not be left exclusively under the purview of diplomats. The Commission and Council should cooperate with the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the other committees as required.


  Elmar Brok (PPE-DE). (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the European External Action Service is a wide-ranging undertaking in administrative terms, and probably the most important structural issue to emerge from the Constitution, at least as regards the shape of the European Union’s future executive activities.

We really do, I think, have to make a success of this, for it will be decisive in determining how Europe may play its part in the world, and I also believe it would be wrong to approach this issue in a defensive way, by saying that the foreign minister is to do what the Council does today, and then cobbling something together, leaving development and trade with the Commission as before.

The foreign minister’s task, irrespective of who has responsibility for what, is to determine the substance of external action as a whole, resulting in a natural tendency for everything to come within his remit. It follows that a defensive approach on the part of the Commission will not help move things forwards. It must instead be proactive; rather than allowing decisions to be taken elsewhere and all except certain subject areas to be outside its competence, it must press for every decision to be taken within the Commission. That will be the key issue.

Mr Dehaene, who will speak shortly, was in charge of the working group on this at the Convention, and so he knows what the Convention wanted; what it wanted was to take the Community method further.

Much as I am obliged to you, Commissioner, for indicating that you share Parliament’s desire to move the Community method forward, does this mean that we will have a single European external action service that is – organisationally, administratively and in Budget terms, dependent on the Commission? This is a clear and simple question, and no answer has been given to it. We therefore ask you to do so, perhaps when revisiting the issue.

We are willing to support the Commission, and it was MEPs that got the rule that this can be done only with the Commission’s consent accepted by the Convention and the Intergovernmental Conference. I hope that the Commission will be courageous enough to seize this opportunity and to come to this decision for itself. No decision can be taken in the face of its opposition, and I hope that you will therefore go further than the general Community method by adopting the position of the declaration Mr Leinen has submitted, according to which the external action service will, in administrative, organisational and budgetary terms, be attached to the Commission, while, of course, faithfully implementing the Council’s decisions on matters in which the Council is competent.

I believe that the dynamics of administrative development mean that this is the only way forward that is in your interests and ours. Perhaps you could make your answers plainer, and then even I might understand them.


  Panagiotis Beglitis (PSE).(EL) Mr President, we all agree that the Constitutional Treaty introduces important institutional innovations as far as external relations are concerned. We have referred to the creation of the position of Minister for Foreign Affairs and the establishment of the European External Action Service. It would be no exaggeration to say that, with these new institutions, the institutional embryo of the future common European Ministry of Foreign Affairs is being created in the European Union.

I am one of those who believe that the Constitutional Treaty could take bolder steps in the direction of deepening these policies, extending the qualified majority and further strengthening the jurisdiction of the European Parliament in the field of common foreign policy. In all events, however, under present circumstances and taking account of the correlations, we have a positive and compelling compromise, which is why I support a vote in favour of the Constitutional Treaty.

As regards the new institution of the European External Action Service, we must start preparing for it to operate as of now, so that we are ready as soon as – I trust – the Constitutional Treaty enters into force in November. There is too little time, if you think that important institutional and organisational matters need to be resolved. That is why Jo Leinen's initiative was the right initiative at the right time.

However, I must point out that the best possible solutions need to be found in order to strengthen the efficacy, consistency, cohesion and visibility of external action.

One of the basic issues is the reinforcement of the advisory and controlling role and greater involvement on the part of the European Parliament, both now, at the preparatory stage, and once the European Service is up and running. That is why I propose that we ask the President of the Commission and Mr Solana to submit a joint progress report to the European Parliament, before presenting it to the European Council in June, and to promise to consult Parliament at all subsequent stages.


  Mirosław Mariusz Piotrowski (IND/DEM).   (PL) I have a great many doubts and reservations about the setting up of a European External Action Service, and I should like to draw the House’s attention to three I regard as crucial.

The first relates to the question of whether Community legislation provides a legitimate basis for the European External Action Service. The relevant articles of the Treaty on European Union have admittedly been cited, as well as other pieces of legislation, but the main point of reference for the establishment of this Service is the draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. It follows from this draft Treaty that the setting up of an EU Diplomatic Service is a simple consequence of conducting a common foreign and security policy and appointing an EU Foreign Affairs Minister, as already mentioned by previous speakers. It should be pointed out, however, that the draft Constitutional Treaty has not yet been adopted, and what is more, that there are serious grounds for believing that it will be rejected by the citizens of the Member States. The question is therefore whether we should not acknowledge that any discussion of a European External Action Service would be extremely premature at this point in time. I would also suggest that this is yet another example of the EU’s arrogant attitude towards the citizens of Europe’s sovereign states. Since the EU institutions appear to believe that they have the right to act ahead of time, I would ask whether the Commission has a plan B, in case the Constitutional Treaty is rejected.

Secondly, the governments of the Member States entered into a commitment when they signed the draft Constitutional Treaty in November 2004, and this commitment has questionable consequences. The Member States undertook to refrain from, and I quote: ‘any action that might impede entry into force of the Constitution’. Does this automatically mean that the Member States must engage in mindless propaganda that advocates the adoption of this Treaty? Does this not preclude the provision of reliable and objective information on the contents of the Constitution and the effects it may have on the lives of Europe’s nations?

Finally, my third concern relates to the planned structure of the European External Action Service, as the latter may entail the creation of a new army of officials with unclear, or even only partial, powers. We cannot even be sure that this structure will not involve the same matters being dealt with by the Directorates-General, the External Action Service and the other Commission agencies. The end result of this will be a burgeoning of the EU’s bureaucratic machinery, even though the latter already lacks transparency and merely places an undue burden on taxpayers in the Member States.

What financial impact is the establishment of the European External Action Service expected to have? How will these costs be shared, and who will bear the greatest burden? Furthermore, I should like to ask how many officials currently work in the Commission services responsible for EU external policy, and how many officials are expected to work in the future External Action Service?


  James Hugh Allister (NI). Mr President, in answering this debate, I should like to invite the Commissioner to focus on two points. One follows on from what the last speaker said.

Since the External Action Service can only have legal status and legitimacy if the Constitution is approved, the Commission and the Council, by working to put the structure, staff and framework of the EAS in place, is surely engaged in blatantly presuming the outcome of the ratification process. In this regard, can the Commission tell us how much it is budgeting to spend on these presumptive and pre-emptive moves that it is taking? How much has this speculative venture cost us to date and how much is it likely to cost us in the next 18 months?

Secondly, could the Commission spell out for the wider public its vision of how the foreign affairs of Member States will be conducted once the EAS is in place? Specifically, is it correct to conclude that national foreign affairs will then only be able to be conducted in a manner consistent with the common foreign policy and will only be able to operate in a manner that is subservient to the EAS?


  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). Mr President, I would like to congratulate you for looking rather enthusiastic, though I have my suspicions that you would much rather be eating asparagus with the rest of the House at this moment.

I have three general points. First of all, I think that this is probably the most important institutional question that we will face within the next four to five years. It is really about executive power: it is about who runs foreign policy – the Commission or the Council. I am very happy that the Member States have taken the issue forward. I am happy that they have provided five fiches for the Antici Group; I am happy that they have been dealt with in the Coreper meetings; and I am also happy that the Commission has had confessionals with the Member States. Most of all, I am happy that, in the European Parliament, we have brought the debate and the discussion out into the open.

The second point I wanted to make is that I think an external relations service for all of us will bring only benefits. In many ways, this whole issue has only winners. It is about providing us with better consular services; it is about providing us with better reporting; and, in general, it is about providing us with a better common and foreign security policy. Because, as we all know, without a functioning civil service on a European level, it cannot work.

The third point I wanted to make – and this is to reiterate what Mr Méndez de Vigo and Mr Brok said – is that there are two key issues that we are looking at from this side. The first is that, even though the system might be sui generis, it is very important that two things remain with the Commission: one is the budget and the second is general administration.

To finish off, I would like to say to the Commission that I hope they stay very firm to the end, because we have to avoid the counter-contamination of issues such as trade and development going over to the intergovernmental and Council side. Never underestimate the capacity of the Council Secretariat to pull the rug out from underneath the Commission – they will do it if they get a chance.



  Jean-Luc Dehaene (PPE-DE). (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, first of all, as Mr Brok already pointed out, I should like to give testimony as chairman of the Convention’s external relations working party, whose main concern was to avoid the eventual adoption of a double external policy, one derived both from the Council and the Commission. On a positive note, the working party wanted to achieve greater coherence and continuity of policy, as well as to make it possible to deploy all the EU’s resources for common external policy actions.

Although a majority of the Convention’s members were of the opinion that this could be best achieved via the Community method, we were sensible enough to realise that this is at the moment not feasible. That is why this compromise has been worked out between those in favour of an improved status quo and those in favour of communitisation.

The External Affairs Minister would be President of the Council of Ministers, determining its agenda and, as its spokesperson, guaranteeing the coherence and continuity of policy. As Vice-President of the Commission, he would also forge a link with Community policy. In addition, with the Commission’s approval, he would be able to use Community funds to back up his policy. The working party’s position was that, ideally, he should consult the Commission about his initiatives, and get it to support them, from the very outset.

We had even proposed that, in the case of a common initiative of the External Affairs Minister and the Commission, the Council should decide by majority. To most, that appeared to be a bridge too far, but I would nevertheless claim that the success of the External Affairs Minister and the influence he will be able to exert will largely depend on the way in which he fits in with the Commission and works with it.

From the very start, the working party realised that the External Affairs Minister’s logistical support was crucial. We have always argued in favour of changing the delegations into a unified external representation in the form of EU embassies. In Brussels too, the Minister should have a strategic service at his disposal, comprising both Commission and Council officials for the moment and diplomats posted from Member States.

Although this service will need to work for both the Council of Ministers and the Commission, the working party took the view that, in terms of dynamics, it was best if it was brought within the Commission’s scope, even though it has to be at the loyal service of the External Affairs Minister and the Council of Ministers.

It appears to me that setting up a new autonomous administration is miles removed from what we wished for. We wanted to abolish the pillars, yet a super pillar is being created, in the shape of the new service. Similarly, to decommunitise the Commission services also seems to be a step in the wrong direction. The Commission must defend its position to the utmost and find a place for this external affairs administration in its services. The Commission should not forget that it must be in agreement and has the last say, therefore. In the Brok report, we in this House will clearly speak out in favour of these solutions and wholeheartedly support the Commission, but it is up to the Commission to guide the negotiations.


  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). Mr President, the whole issue of a common Community diplomacy is one about which I and my national party have serious reservations. I cannot deny that the huge clout the Commission now wields from its aid activities and its monopoly on external trade brings with it an additional large international political and economic dimension as well. Furthermore, given the concomitant development of the CFSP and CESDP, although ostensibly intergovernmental, there has been a rise in the international profile of the EU as an actor on the world stage.

However, coming from a large country – the UK – with a proud and independent foreign policy, I oppose the proposals in the draft EU Constitution, which sets up for the first time the legal personality of the EU and establishes the post of Foreign Minister, led by the new five-year Council President. All of this is designed to create a more coercive and binding common foreign and security policy, threatening full UK policy independence in the field of foreign affairs. Clearly, in the EU of 25, there are now many more small countries like Mr Stubb’s home country of Finland facing the prospect of a six-monthly EU presidency if the Constitution does not come to pass. For them, it is attractive to see the economies of scale which can come from an EU diplomatic service, including their national staff manning Community delegations. There will also be financial savings from the establishment of full-blown EU embassies, in the unlikely event that the Constitution comes to pass, which can replace, in part, small countries’ bilateral missions, if necessary.

Nevertheless, I sympathise with better and more thorough diplomatic training for Relex staff sent abroad in the Commission delegations. I support more formal European Parliament scrutiny in the form of hearings of delegation heads of mission by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on appointment of this Parliament. Also, MEPs should enjoy more formalised assistance when on mission – which, it must be said, we normally do.

However, I have serious worries about granting the EU more trappings of statehood, which the EAS signifies, if it further reduces my country’s ability to conduct its own independent foreign and security policy when it is in our own national interest to do so.


  Maria da Assunção Esteves (PPE-DE).(PT) Perhaps the most complex, controversial and fascinating aspect of the challenge of constitutionalising Europe is that of external action. Through external action, Europe spreads a new style of governance around the world, characterised by the active sharing of democratic values and respect for human rights.

Consequently, the External Action Service does not only mean administrative and financial streamlining, and a desire to organise. The Service now demonstrates that the EU’s foreign policy is a shared project for life, a model of consensus on the broad horizons for the human race that Europe is drawing for itself and for its relations with the world.

All of which calls for its institutions to work together transversally and for external policy decisions to be rooted in democracy. The emerging Constitution illustrates that decisions on common foreign policy are now being made on the basis of criteria that are not exclusively intergovernmental, but rather transversal to the European institutions that process political decisions. Accordingly, the Commission’s action automatically sets off a connection with Parliament.

If we are to have a coherent Europe, with a clearly defined strategic vision based on multilateralism and on a new system of international law, we need to ensure that the institutions interact in synergy with one another and that there is permanent internal consensus. This is the way forward for the new European External Action Service. The following questions are thus raised, with regard to the service: What is its organic configuration? How will it handle its enormous multidisciplinarity? How will it set up its chains of authority? How will it prevent tension arising between the Council and the Commission, not to mention the tendency for relations between the two to descend into feudalism? Lastly, how will it set out the chain of responsibility, including the chain of democratic responsibility?


  Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, I thank the few of us who are usually here at the night sitting of the European Parliament. It can sometimes be somewhat of a challenge to follow the time planning of the European Parliament. I was under the impression that this would start at 10 p.m. That is why I was here ten minutes earlier – happily together with Mr Leinen – and I thank you for welcoming me to the debate.

I have listened with great interest to what parliamentarians have said tonight in this debate because the European External Action Service is a subject that arouses passions. It touches on institutional and constitutional issues of fundamental importance; the creation of a Union Minister of Foreign Affairs, who will at the same time be a Vice-President of the Commission, is a key innovation in the institutional architecture of this European Union. It brings close together the two pillars in the field of foreign affairs – the Community method and the intergovernmental method. This two-hatted Minister will have tasks of different kinds. That is why the creation of this service is such an important and difficult challenge.

I shall comment briefly on a few issues that were raised. To Mr van den Berg, I would say that development policy is and will remain a key component of European Union policies and an important asset for Europe in the world and in the context of the Constitution. Development policy is not subordinate to other policies. It retains its special status in the frame of the Community method, but all the policies need to be better integrated in a coherent foreign policy concept. This will strengthen, not weaken, the effectiveness of the Union’s development policy.

I can assure Mr Duff that the Commission is not going to be emasculated by the Constitution as regards Community competences. The Minister and his services will be bound by Commission procedures and the principles of collegiality, under the guidance of the Commission’s President.

I entirely agree with Mr Brok that we should not be defensive. For the Commission, the new arrangements under the Constitution offer more opportunities than risks. It is also important to underline that nothing can be decided against the Commission in this field.

To Mr Allister and others, I would say that we are not prejudging the ratification of the Constitution. We are simply preparing the decision, which can only be taken after the Constitution is ratified and comes into force, and after Parliament has given its opinion.

On the implications for the budget and for personnel, no plans or estimates or calculations have been made because we are not yet at that detailed stage of planning. Parliament, as budgetary authority, will decide on all these figures later on.

I think those are the principal issues raised, and I can assure you that Parliament’s views will be taken into account as this dossier develops in the coming months. In particular, the resolution which the Committee on Constitutional Affairs adopted on Tuesday – which I understand will go to the plenary session in two weeks’ time – is a contribution which must be taken into account, not only by the Commission but by Member States and the Council as well.

We expect further technical work to continue in the second half of this year, so that decisions of principle can be taken in the course of next year when the ratification of the Constitution is completed. Parliament will be formally consulted on the proposal regarding the Minister at an appropriate stage, so tonight’s debate will be followed by others in which Parliament can amplify its views in the light of progress on which the House will be kept informed.

I shall conclude by repeating that we in the Commission are conscious of the concerns of parliamentarians to safeguard and enhance the Community method and the role of the Commission and Parliament in this process. I know this is something that Mr Brok is concerned about. We share with you the aim of creating new structures which can really contribute to improving the effectiveness, coherence and influence of the Union’s policies and actions in the world.


  President. We will check on the information that you were given, Commissioner. In my book an attractive woman is always allowed to be late.

With the exception of one Member who spoke before you arrived, Commissioner, all the Members who spoke in the debate are still present. That is unusual.


  Elmar Brok (PPE-DE). (DE) Mr President, I would like to thank Commissioner Wallström for saying that nothing can be decided against the Commission. That is what is stated in the draft Constitution. I am obliged to her for making this clear once more.

What is at issue is not whether Parliament’s positions can be taken on board, but the fact that we have asked what the Commission’s negotiating position is, in other words, whether or not it is arguing that this service should be attached to it. We would be very interested to know what you think about this.

Nor is the issue in any way about the involvement of Parliament; on the contrary, we are here today to help the Commission avoid the situation in which it would be an internal market mechanism and the Foreign Minister a powerful figure in his own right, and instead establish that it is the Commission which, administratively speaking, performs the European Union’s role in the world.

Mr President, perhaps you could supply me with the document that would provide us with a basis in law for ascertaining that Parliament has to nudge the Commission in the right direction.


  Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, I just wish to say that it is important to understand that we are not yet at the negotiating stage. We are still at the preparatory stage, where we look at all the technical details. It would be unfortunate to lock ourselves into negotiating positions now. There is too much technical and preparatory work to be done before that. As I said earlier, we will keep Parliament informed of our progress.


  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place in Brussels on Thursday, 26 May.

Legal notice - Privacy policy