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The best Spanish hostel ever! … The European diplo service

European and Belgian experts from Bfast on their way back from Haiti (credit: European Commission)

(BRUSSELS2) Among the “papers” discussed by the foreign ministers on Monday was the paper proposed by the three Benelux countries. In the same spirit as the Austrian paper, Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourg diplomats recommend “ to improve synergies between the Union and the Member States » and to make some improvements in the work, on the ground (in third countries), between European and bilateral delegations. But above all they bring an original touch – the Benelux touch – in their desire to put Europe at the service of the Member States and at the forefront in the event of crises, whether for consular cooperation or in the response mechanism of crises within the framework of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP). Without forgetting (not an idiotic idea at all): exchanges of personnel between European diplomacy (EEAS) and the diplomacies of the Member States. Because for the Benelux, the birth of a common culture is one of the next cements of the common foreign policy.

The birth of a common culture
starts with sharing analytics
and information

Guidelines by fall

The Benelux diplomats propose that the High Representative put on the table, by autumn 2011, common guidelines for setting the " bonnes pratiques » cooperation on the ground in third countries and international organisations. Guidelines that could be reassessed regularly.

Sharing information and analyzes

Like the Austrians, they also recommend " information sharing and joint analyzes », in a spirit of confidence, on the ground. Member States which are not represented in the countries concerned “ should get similar access to EU Delegations' reports » they ask. All this requires a secure system of communication between the European institutions concerned and the Member States. But savings can also be made by exchanging analyses, press reviews and translations. What is done by one is no longer to be done by the other.

Long live the exchanges

Another idea of ​​the “Beneluxians”, the birth of a common strategic culture. The paper therefore recommends joint training of European diplomats and other agents deployed by the EU as well as by bilateral missions. And personnel exchanges. EEAS personnel could temporarily work in the services of Member States (as national diplomats are already employed by the EEAS).

In the event of a crisis, the diplomatic service
Europe must be there, visible, prepared to respond… to everything

A more visible role for Europe in the event of crises

The EU must play a more visible role for all in crisis situations » say the Benelux countries. Even if this remains a national competence, they believe that the European diplomatic service can play a coordinating role in practical and logistical areas such as evacuations, the provision of shelter or the deployment of teams of experts.

Better consular cooperation

The EEAS can also, temporarily, house the consular staff of Member States which do not have a presence in a particular location. Travel warnings, reports on human rights, on specific cases of asylum requests, the issuance of emergency travel documents for Europeans are all areas where consular cooperation between Europeans could be exercised. .

Being able to coordinate without being there: a secure video network

In the event of an emergency, the High Representative and Foreign Ministers must also be able to speak in secure ways without having to meet in person. The “Benelux” note therefore suggests “urgently” studying a secure videoconferencing system.

The COPS controls, the EEAS coordinates, and all scenarios must be considered

It is the diplomatic service which must play the role of coordination and mobilization of the Union's resources. Clear procedures and chains of command set in advance must make it possible to respond to crises. And all response scenarios must be able to be studied (disaster response, humanitarian aid, consular protection, civil-military options, diplomatic action). But it is up to the Political and Security Committee (PSC) to ensure full political control and guidance in these crisis situations. A COPS which, in the eyes of the Benelux countries, should play, generally speaking, “ a greater role in the CFSP decision-making process (and) becoming a focal point for pre-decision consultations ».

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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).