European External Action Service: Wikis


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European External Action Service
Charlemagne building.jpg
The Charlemagne building, likely home of the EEAS[1] and current home of the soon defunct DG RELEX
Agency overview
Preceding agencies Commission DG RELEX
Council Foreign Dept
Headquarters Brussels, Belgium
Agency executive Catherine Ashton, High Representative
Key document Treaty of Lisbon
European Union
Flag of the European Union

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
the European Union


The European External Action Service (EEAS) is a unique European Union (EU) institution[2] that is being established following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009. It will serve as a foreign ministry and diplomatic corps for the EU. The EEAS is under the authority of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (a post also created by the Treaty of Lisbon), whom it assists. As of March 2010 the formation of the EEAS is still taking place.



The EEAS was first included in the failed European Constitution, a single EU external relations department was seen as necessary to support the proposed single high representative post; as Charles Grant, Director of the Centre for European Reform, says it would ' like having a conductor without an orchestra—or rather, a conductor trying to conduct two separate orchestras at the same time.'[3] Following the rejection of the Constitution, the changes were revived in the Treaty of Lisbon which came into force in 2009.

The mandate for the External Action Service is laid down under article 13a-III of the Treaty of Lisbon, and states the following:

In fulfilling his or her mandate, the High Representative shall be assisted by a European External Action Service. This service shall work in cooperation with the diplomatic services of the Member States and shall comprise officials from relevant departments of the General Secretariat of the Council and of the Commission as well as staff seconded from national diplomatic services of the Member States. The organisation and functioning of the European External Action Service shall be established by a decision of the Council. The Council shall act on a proposal from the High Representative after consulting the European Parliament and after obtaining the consent of the Commission.[4]

Shortly before the treaty came into force, Catherine Ashton was named High Representative and tasked with drawing up the structure of the new EEAS. Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake Ashton chaired a meeting of the foreign policy actors across the Commission, Council and member states to give a coordinated response to the disaster. Although she refused to describe it as the first act of the external action service, Ashton did emphasise that it was the first time that such a co-ordination between all the various EU foreign policy actors had been accomplished before.[5]

Proposed organisation

With the details being elaborated throughout 2009-10, the EEAS will be unique and independent from other EU institutions. It will be formed by merger of the external relation departments of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission. However, the Commission's exclusive competence in trade, development and enlargement policy will not be transferred to EEAS.[6] Although the service will have cells for these areas, decisions will have to be made jointly by the High Representative and the College of Commissioners. The Commission's representations abroad will fall under the EEAS as EU embassies. The EEAS will manage general foreign relations, security and defence policies, and will control the Situation Centre (see intelligence below). However, although the High Representative and the EEAS can prepare initiatives, member states make the final decisions and the Commission also plays a part in technical implementation. The High Representative must report to the European Parliament.[2]

The EEAS would have desks dedicated to all the countries and regional organisations in the world, and specialised units for democracy, human rights and defence.[7] It would also sit outside the budget of the other institutions. The EEAS's budget would be proposed and managed by the High Representative, who will also appoint his or her own staff. The final proposal on the shape of the EEAS will be made by April 2010. It will become fully operational by 2012; there will be a review in 2014.[2]



Staff will be drawn from the Commission and Council and from the member states' diplomatic services, seconded temporarily. The High Representative's appoints his or her own staff directly.[2] There have been concerns, notably in leaked German foreign policy documents, that the whole structure of the EEAS is becoming dominated by the British. It is believed High Representative Ashton is open to influence from London and that there are a large number of British staff in high ranking positions already poised to take on the EEAS' top jobs. The steering group for the setting up of the EEAS itself has 3 of its 13 members from the UK, while only one is from Germany.[7]

Senior posts

While the High Representative will be conducting shuttle diplomacy, with the special representatives reporting directly to her, the day-to-day administration of the EEAS will be handled by a Secretary-General. Below the secretary-general there will be a further eight senior posts; two deputy secretary-generals and six director-generals. One of the deputy secretary-generals will deal with administrative matters while the other will stand in for the High Representative in internal EU meetings and second rate international events. The director generals will each manage a department (see below). The secretary-general will also oversea the autonomous cells such as the Situation Centre (see intelligence below), the military staff, an internal security unit, audit unit and a unit for communications and relations with other EU institutions.[8]


The EEAS will be formed of six departments, or directorates, which constitute the pillars of the service. Each is composed of several hundred officials and headed by a director general. The departments will cover the following areas;[8]


As part of the merger, the intelligence gathering services in the Commission and Council will be merged. These services are the Council's Joint Situation Centre and Watch-Keeping Capability and the Commission's Crisis Room. The Situation Centre (SitCen) has 110 staff and has a cell of intelligence analysts from member states who pool classified information to produce concise reports on important topics. It also runs a 24/7 alert desk based on public sources which then updates EU diplomats via SMS on current events. The Watch-Keeping Capability is composed of 12 police and military officers who gather news from the EU's overseas missions. Finally, the Crisis Room is run by six commission officials who run a restricted website reporting breaking news on the 118 active conflicts in the world based on open sources and news from EU embassies. It uses scientific tools including statistical analysis and software which scans global TV broadcasts for names and key words. Details on the plans for the new merged intelligence service are still sketchy as of early 2010 but it will not run undercover operations along the lines of national intelligence agencies despite proposals from Belgium and Austria after the 2004 Madrid train bombings.[9]

High Representative

Catherine Ashton will be in charge of the service as the Union's first High Representative

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is the main co-ordinator and representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) within the EU and hence the head of the EEAS.[10]

The smaller preceding post was introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam as the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy; it was then occupied by Javier Solana for ten years until it was expanded by the Lisbon Treaty to sit in the European Commission and chair the council of EU foreign ministers. The United States Clinton Administration claimed in May 2000 that the post was the fulfilment of Henry Kissinger's desire to have a phone number to talk to Europe (“Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” – Henry Kissinger). The expanded post was taken up by Catherine Ashton and as the first High Representative she has the role of establishing the EEAS.

Related Commission DGs

The following Directorates-General (DGs) of the Commission are not being merged and decisions in these areas require approval from the college of Commissioners: Directorate-General for Development, Directorate-General for Enlargement, Directorate-General for Trade and the EuropeAid Co-operation Office (inc ECHO).

However Ashton's draft plan for the EEAS include proposals for the EEAS to take responsibility for Neighbourhood Policy (currently assigned to the Enlargement Commissioner) and international development at least.[11]

See also


External links


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