The EU’s External Action Service
7 July, 2010
The European Union’s External Action Service: ensuring strategic coherence and effective delivery
Monday 17 – Wednesday 19 May 2010 (WP1065)
A consultation in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The European Union’s (EU) influence is in danger of diminishing as emerging powers compete with the EU and USA for economic and political influence. The world is changing fast: mobility of people and skills is accelerating, and the nation state is yielding power as global interdependence grows. To maintain influence, and increase its effectiveness, the EU must adapt and respond accordingly. Diplomats, academics and other experts met here in May to discuss the EU’s new European External Action Service (EEAS) which is a key step in developing a more coherent EU foreign policy. The aim is to move from a largely response – driven form of operating to provide for a wider strategic and broader executive capacity. The new institution is a unique opportunity to build a Service geared towards creating and maximising opportunities rather than one restricted to reactive trouble-shooting.
Issues under discussion included how to ensure the Service has clear goals and the right tool box and human resources to fulfill its mandate; how to achieve strategic policy coherence and differentiate roles and responsibilities with member states and how to ‘market’ the service and ensure effective engagement with external actors.
It is still not clear when the Action Service will be up and running nor exactly how it will be organised. Negotiations with the European Parliament continue. After the formal decision has been taken to go ahead, there will be a ‘running in’ period for building up capacity and establishing smooth and efficient best working practice. This will not be easy in an environment where institutional instincts and loyalties have been paramount and where people with quite different professional cultures and experiences have to work together as a coherent whole. The challenge is formidable, but not impossible. What stands to be gained is an EU that can continue to play a leading role in shaping a common future. What is required, above all else, is political will from the institutions involved, and the member states, to make this happen.