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Cool. EU updates consular protection guidelines

On November 5, the COPS ambassadors approved the “consular protection guidelines” which make it possible to coordinate the action of the 27 Member States when a crisis occurs in a third country. An update, at a minimum, which nevertheless includes some new features: the EU delegations enter the “loop”. And two annexes specify the strategy for disseminating information between consular missions as well as the tools and practices in terms of crisis management and emergency planning.

EU delegations in the “loop"

It can be noted that on this highly sensitive subject, it is the Member States, through the voice of their head of mission in the State concerned, who maintain and have the responsibility to ensure the protection of their nationals in third States, by anticipating all situations with emergency plans. When a State is not represented, the problem remains of ensuring this protection on the basis of “pragmatism, flexibility and a 'fair' division of consular charges“. A State can thus choose to extend the same protection to other European citizens as that provided for their nationals, but it will be necessary to find an arrangement with the Member State of origin to ensure that the expenses incurred are covered. In each third country, a Member State is thus designated which assumes the presidency (Chair) coordination between all consular missions on site. At the presidency, to keep an up-to-date file of all consular staff of member states (1), as well as key contacts in the member state: from the police or prisons to morgues, hospitals or airports, etc.

EU delegations/embassies are now expressly mentioned as being able to provide “logistical” support to Member States' missions, especially during crises. Likewise, they must provide support for the “mission – presidency”. They are also called to “share information” with the Member States. Some countries (the United Kingdom in particular) are not keen to see the EU become more involved. This mention may seem quite limited. But even by the admission of a national diplomat, the main thing is that they are there. Afterwards, in practice, as situations progress, “their role may become clearer”, or even strengthened.

NB: We can note, however, that the Member States were careful not to mention either the European External Action Service or the role of the High Representative. (this will be for the next update!)

“Cool” the consular protection website

Concrete measures are planned, listing in particular the tasks to be carried out by the Member States: evacuation and emergency plan, registration of citizens of the Member States, establishment and/or maintenance of a VHF/UHF communication network or similar, regular exchanges of information, possible involvement of honorary consuls, etc. Thus, in “crisis” countries, the EU recommends holding a meeting at least every three months between the different heads of mission present in the country to “discuss the security of EU citizens”. All the information on the consular services of the Member States can be found on a website, called CoOL website, like Consular On Line (and then we will say that diplomats do not have romantic souls :-). A training kit has also been developed by the European Commission and SitCen (EU situation and analysis center) allowing capital services to prepare their staff deployed in consulates. The idea is to promote an online kit on the “CoOL” website; SitCen is responsible for preparing this implementation. The presidency in each member state will organize regular information sessions.

No constraint but...

Please note that these “guidelines” are not binding as such. This is quite a good way to go. But we can notice that over the years, they tend to thicken and become a real “road book” (2). They are thus in line with the Treaty of Maastricht which aimed to give European citizens finding themselves in a country where their Member State is not represented the possibility of contacting another State of the Union to ensure their protection and first aid. A decision came to apply this principle in December 1995. The first guidelines were approved in 1995 and detailed in 2000 by what was officially only the “interim” political and security committee interim COPS; their last update dates back to 2006. While the concept of lead state dates back to 2007.

(1) It can be noted that the diplomatic network of the 27 is concentrated on a few key countries. In only three (China, USA and Russia) are all 27 present. In around twenty others (Switzerland, Norway, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Iran, Israel, India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, etc.), they are almost all there. Elsewhere, it becomes rarer. Only France and the United Kingdom maintain an almost complete network, followed by Germany and Spain, then the Netherlands and Italy... And the current trend is more towards the closure of missions than their opening.

(2) The EU wants to strengthen consular cooperation between the “27”

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).

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