European External Action Service
Delivered in Plenary - 7th July 2010
The European External Action Service, or what we would prefer to be known as the EU Diplomatic Service, has been subject to a prolonged bout of wrangling over its composition recently. Thankfully, this has now ended, and High Representative Ashton emerges with considerable credit for her administrative skills and consensual approach.
British Conservatives were opposed to the creation of the EEAS, but we are now reconciled to engaging constructively, though not uncritically, with it. The EEAS as now proposed inevitably represents a compromise – in my view an acceptable compromise – but perhaps we should expect this from a hybrid sui generis independent institution which has never been seen before.
I personally would have liked a greater emphasis on the intergovernmental Council-led approach and a merit-based selection of national and EU diplomats, as opposed to national quotas – as well as some political appointees, and why not the odd ex-prime minister or two? Nevertheless I welcome the EEAS strategic role over development and aid policy and the modest increases in powers acquired for this Parliament, such as confirmation hearings for senior appointees and the budgetary and Staff Regulation powers which are clear in the Treaties. This will further increase democratic oversight of the service.
Finally, I hope that national MPs will also be closely involved from the beginning in new formal structures for scrutinising the EEAS. This is especially important from the point of view of the military CSDP missions, which are funded from national, not EU, budgets. The UK is a significant contributor to such missions and our national MPs must be kept fully appraised and on board if these missions are to retain popular support back home.