Blog AnalysisEEAS High Representative

One year of EEAS, the report of the High Representative

(BRUSSELS2, exclusive) This is a bit like the response to the letter of the Twelve. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU has just completed the first activity report of the European External Action Service, one year after its creation. A report of which B2 was aware. It is intended – as its introduction specifies – to “ provide an overview of progress to date (so) that it is too early to make a final judgment on the emerging form of this new service. “The creation of the EEAS is a long-term challenge which will take several years to reach maturity. » This report, official, waters down the various difficulties. But they appear in hollow: difficulty of creating a common culture, change of functions and limitation of the number of people, difficult relations with the European Commission.

Four priorities for the future

The four priorities identified for the future are quite clear on this point: 1) Consolidate the capacity to provide political content on the priority areas established by the High Representative. This requires sustained efforts to build collective ownership in the external agenda between Member States, the European Parliament, the Commission and other parties ". 2) Make a “ substantial effort" on the work of the EU delegations which ensure the presence of external action in the front line. 3) Develop a “ shared culture " in the service ; which requires closer cooperation between the various services, to make the crisis management structures work together with the geographical or thematic services. 4) Resolve issues under discussion with the Commission, such as political files, staff management in delegations, financial responsibilities and reporting lines.

Crisis management… in a particular year

The report takes stock of this eventful year, the Arab Spring, which saw the creation of a crisis management platform, created between the Commission and the EEAS, to provide a " immediate response » in Tunisia and Libya, and the important work, often underground, of coordination at the international level; the Middle East peace process, where the voice of the EU has become louder » ; the Iranian nuclear dossier, where the EU is acting on a UN mandate; the Horn of Africa where the EEAS conducts CSDP operations and coordinates humanitarian assistance (€700 million); the Balkans where the EU maintains a decisive commitment in a context of " complex political tension »… But what seems important is the significant increase in the crisis response capacity of the EEAS which, little by little, is finding its cruising speed. At the higher level, a crisis management council is headed by the High Representative or the Secretary General of the Service. If necessary, a crisis platform brings together the relevant units of the EEAS, as well as of the Commission or the Council. And an "Location Room” was created to ensure a 24/24 service.

The job of the rotating presidency

The greatest innovation of the Lisbon Treaty was to transfer the responsibilities of the rotating presidency to the field of foreign policy. Concretely, this meant that Service officials took over the chairmanship of the COPS, the political and security committee, and of 16 working groups. This also presupposes the production of declarations: 78 on behalf of the European Union (the highest level), 279 declarations by the High Representative (NB: when urgency does not allow the agreement of the 27 to be obtained or the 27 do not all fully agree), 102 from the spokesperson for the High Representative and 45 statements from the local delegation. NB: a job that can sometimes seem trivial or useless seen from the side of European capitals but which has a more fundamental importance for the populations or the governments of the countries concerned.

Briefings to European officials

The work of the EEAS also consisted in preparing briefings for the various European authorities: 937 in all were listed until September 30. 243 for the High Representative, 125 for Commission President JM Barroso, 67 for Council President H. Van Rompuy, and 235 for Enlargement Commissioner S. Füle. “The success of this coordination is clearest in the preparation of Summits and other high-level meetings where the EEAS has a central role. »

Delegations on the front line

Gradually, the network of 140 Commission delegations transformed into EU delegations " assuming the coordination tasks previously devolved to the rotating presidency ". Although staff reinforcements have been made in several delegations, this is not the case in all. " More than 20 EU Delegations still do not have a political section and the Head of Delegation is the sole administrator of the EEAS. » Despite these constraints, the transfer of Presidency responsibilities has been remarkably smooth (…) and has been welcomed by third countries, thanks to a high degree of pragmatism and flexibility, demonstrated by the staff of the delegations and the diplomats of the States members ".

The consular question under debate

The EEAS has become aware of certain problems raised by the Member States (see the letter of the 12) in particular with regard to the sharing of political analyses, more intensive coordination meetings… “ A pilot project for the exchange of classified information is being developed in cooperation with Member States. On the consular question, it is more complex. While "several states have expressed a strong interest in seeing EU delegations develop capacities for consular support for member citizens" (Benelux, Baltic and Nordic countries in particular), " other states are also clearly opposed to seeing the EU take on a greater role in this area, which is seen as a national competence ". A phrase that targets the United Kingdom in particular but not only, the Czech Republic as well. And other countries, like France, have a position that is, to say the least, complex.

A budget increase for 2012

In the 2012 budget, the EEAS was obliged to ask for an increase of €26,9 million, the majority of which was devoted to filling the gaps noted during the transfer to the EEAS in 2011, in particular with regard to the salaries of contract workers and local agents . This budget must also cover the 20 additional administrator posts to open new delegations in Libya and South Sudan, meet the needs generated by the crisis in North Africa and new activities generated by the Lisbon Treaty.

IT and personnel management issues

The creation of the EEAS with the rules inherited from the European Commission is not without problems. The “service thus has a limited autonomy to put in place specific, adapted personnel policies, different from the standard service offered by DG Human Resources in the Commission. (…) The computer system, in particular inherited from the Commission, is not adapted to the use of the Service” (NB: it is said diplomatically. But it is a real problem. From an internal source, this system, says Tsar 2 , is “real shit”; it is “heavy”, “slow”, even loses certain information… so much so that diplomats often prefer to double their internal communication with a good old email, not secure, but faster).

One can notice the relatively limited place of defense and security issues in this report. This is not an illusion, it is the least of the concerns of the High Representative. EEAS communication and information issues are also missing. It would be better. It is still just as deficient and in deficit after two years in office as the High Representative.

To view the document, see B2 Docs

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).