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Diplomatic service. The European Parliament must also act on its side

(BRUSSELS2, Saturday Humor) The High Representative and the European Parliament have engaged in a final standoff to reach an agreement on the diplomatic service. I will not return to this point. But I am quite surprised – to say the least… – by the attitude of the European Parliament. This intends to exercise full budgetary, even political, control over the common foreign and security policy. This is undoubtedly a legitimate claim, even if its legal justification can be debated (read: The European Parliament puts the foot in the door of the Diplomatic Service).

But the European Parliament does not accompany this request with any gesture or structure capable of supporting this desire for control. Discretion, even unpreparedness, remains essential. Parliament is therefore asking to be able to hear the heads of delegation (a request refused by Cathy Ashton) but does not indicate how it will be able to take charge of this work of hearing the approximately 30 to 40 positions which are up for renewal each year.

The same goes for research services. The European Parliament has not really expanded its service accordingly in relation to future challenges in terms of foreign and security policy. This would perhaps be a “job” for the EU Institute for Security Studies which is running a bit empty at the moment.

As for Europe's defense and security...

Parliament advocates Defense Europe but does not take it seriously!

The WEU parliamentary assembly and then…

It has been several months since the decision to bury the WEU parliamentary assembly was taken (read: La end de l 'WEU (and its assembly) programmed? (following). And I have not heard any official proposal to support what the European Parliament is proposing to exercise democratic control over the
security policy. Not even to replace, at a minimum, what the defunct parliamentary assembly did - reports and missions - as well as the modalities of association of national parliaments. When I speak of a proposal, it is not ideas that we lack, it is a proposal put on the negotiating table of the diplomatic service or the Bureau of Parliament.

A defense subcommittee where absence takes precedence…

Defense remains a subcommittee in Parliament whose powers are very limited. The slightest report is subject to obscure negotiations with its supervisory commission, Foreign Affairs. As a result, the major subjects of European defense (Airbus A400M, the commitment in Afghanistan, the cost of the crisis on our commitments, the new developments resulting from the Lisbon Treaty, etc.) still remain strangely absent from the parliamentary line of sight. While others, “sexier”, are “captured” by the mother commission. A process that has been confirmed to me from several sources.

The meetings of the defense subcommittee continue to take place, very often with the presence on the benches of deputies limited to the strict minimum (one or two per party). Only the most serious and rigorous are required to be present regularly (1). For others, their presence is eliptical. Which is not entirely illogical. Membership in the subcommittee is only optional and does not relieve the obligation to be present in two other committees (one as a full member, the other as a substitute); no wonder then that it hardly has priority.

With the Lisbon Treaty, the need for a full Defense Commission emerges

If the European Parliament is at all serious in its demands in terms of Foreign and Security Policy, it should equip itself with a real capacity for control with a full committee dedicated to the PeSDC, which would allow MEPs to hire full-time. This is not a corporatist demand as some grumpy MPs maintain. It is a political necessity but also a practical one.

Defense Europe, whatever some Cassandras think, is developing. The multiplication of missions deployed (around fifteen deployed worldwide today), of subjects under discussion (operational, industrial, capabilities, political, etc.) involves deputies engaged full-time in the commission. The new features put in place by the Lisbon Treaty (reinforced cooperation and permanent structured cooperation, advance funds, vanguard group, etc.) are all innovations which may merit supervision.

And defense is a separate sector which often requires both a certain confidentiality and a certain technicality, not to mention a defense secret clearance (or at least a certain confidentiality). Most parliamentary assemblies in member states have also adopted the principle of duplicating their “Foreign Affairs” and “Defense” committees.

A decision solely within the purview of Parliament

To strengthen this parliamentary control... there is no need for any modification of the Treaty or legislative proposal from the Commission or authorization from Member States, or even interinstitutional negotiation. A simple decision from the Bureau of the European Parliament, the modification of its internal regulations, may be enough.

Gentlemen parliamentarians, it's up to you!

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Let us quote some of these good students: Arnaud Danjean (PPE), Ana Gomez and Ioan
Mircea Pascu (S&D), Franziska Brantner and Bütikofer (Greens)…

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).