Blog AnalysisEEAS High Representative

High representative: a design flaw to be corrected

(BRUSSELS2 – 2011 report) Regardless of the personality who occupies it, the position of High Representative versus Lisbon today suffers from a design flaw. We have often talked about the triple agenda of the position which requires either being superhuman or being very organized. We have talked less about the confusion of roles, both on the constitutional level and on the political level.

We can indeed wonder whether the principle of separation of powers is really respected. As a member of the Commission, the High Representative is a member of the executive, must apply the regulations and decisions approved by the Council and Parliament, must pursue breaches and infringements of community legislation and can refer the matter to the Court of Justice. As a member of the Council, she is more on the deliberative side of power. What will happen (which has happened in the past) when the Commission and the Council have different views. For example in budgetary matters.

This situation has political, even psychological, implications which disrupt the daily functioning of a high representative. Demonstrate both dynamism and boldness to take the initiative (when you are at the Commission), chair the debates as neutrally as possible (when you are at the Council), represent all the Member States at the externally in a dynamic way, have sufficient media relations to allow the European place to be held “high”. This is all somewhat contradictory.

At some point, we will have to see how this hiatus can be resolved. In practical terms, will it not be necessary to examine for a moment the possibility of providing the High Representative with deputies, with a political profile? For example, for “security” matters. The American example where we see Hillary Clinton flanked by thematic or geographical “assistants” could be a useful avenue for reflection. Today, the Treaty says nothing on this point. It's not that he forbids it, he is silent. Which, despite everything, leaves some room for maneuver. Concretely, there are different tricks – such as the position of special representative – which would make it possible to fill this legal void.

Tomorrow, the European Parliament like the Member States will not be able to make deeper savings on the post of High Representative as it exists in the Lisbon Treaty, in order to resize it, support it and multiply it to make it fully effective.

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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