Blog AnalysisEEAS High Representative

Catherine Ashton's Foreign Policy Precepts

Image 2-copy-1(BRUSSELS2) During its hearing, Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, has slightly clarified her future policy at the head of the external action service and as coordinator of the “external” pole at the Commission. She was more precise there than on the defense policy.

Priority no. 1: set up the external service

A once-in-a-generation opportunity. The external servicer is not “a mere bureaucratic exercise” she assured. It is "a tool that brings together all the elements of our commitment – ​​political, economic and military – to implement a coherent strategy“. It will be very different from what ministries can do,” she said. But it's "a once in a generation opportunity” she added.

A sui generis status. " We have two options: within the Commission, or sui generis. ATpersonal title, I lean towards a “sui generis” status””. Which in some way agrees with the opinions of MEPs. The European Parliament will, in any case, be consulted throughout the process, “ before the decision of the Council in April "She said.

Total parliamentary control son the budget. Ashton also surrendered to Parliament, believing that the EEAS “would be subject to full right of scrutiny by Parliament".

But no hearing of EU ambassadors by Parliament. « Aambassadors or heads of delegation, call them what you are
", this must remain within my sole competence, underlined Ashton. “I'm not convinced that auditions should be held for top positions“, she explained, responding to Belgian liberal Annemie Neyts. “ What is important is to have a transparent appointment procedure ».

NB: this position is perfectly legitimate for ambassadors or heads of delegation. If the European Parliament begins to organize hearings for each ambassador appointment, this seems difficult to justify, as few European states do this (none to my knowledge). On the other hand, for the special representatives, who are as their name indicates “special”, in a much smaller number, and above all whose presence and role are defined by the European Treaty, the hearing by the competent committee of the Parliament European can be justified.

My role: discuss in the shadows

Federate, not oppose. At the Union level, Catherine Ashton defines her role as follows: “ not the opposition. But rather bring together energies and desires to work together ". The search for results, for consensus, are words that often come up in his mouth, as well as discretion and discussion.

Discuss discreetly, leitmotif. Obviously, Ashton prefers shadow to light. “ Quiet diplomacy, do so doesn't mean I'm at peace. But when I chat with people discreetly, it often helps me achieve my goals better. And it allows others to take credit for ideas suggested to him. Sometimes going out in public doesn't achieve a result. We need to find the effective approach depending on the country we are talking to. »

Commissioner and High Representative, a subtle distinction. " I will be a Commissioner when I come to present Commission files to you. I will be the representative of the Board when I come to report on the discussions to the Board » " Now – she admitted – from a logistical point of view it will be necessary to resolve the question », thus recognizing that the distinction was not easy to make.

Lead the other commissioners in the right way. The Treaty "is very clear“, Ashton has “authority” on the other commissioners. “ It is up to me to create the strategic framework, that falls within my competence, and to ask the Commission to join me” she explains. However, everyone's autonomy will be preserved: “I would work with a group of commissioners with a clear division of labor which would particularly emphasize implementation as in development for example".

A unilingual diplomat

At the linguistic level, we could see that Catherine Ashton made no effort. Not even a little word in French, German, Spanish or Polish. Nothing. Nada. English, English, English, start to finish. A "serious” problem for a chief diplomat, estimated, after the fact, several deputies. But none of them had the presence of mind to ask him why…

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).