European External Action Service
Delivered in Plenary - May 11th 2005
The whole issue of a common Community diplomacy is one about which I and my national party have serious reservations. I cannot deny that the huge clout the Commission now wields from its aid activities and its monopoly on external trade brings with it an additional large international political and economic dimension as well. Furthermore, given the concomitant development of the CFSP and CESDP, although ostensibly intergovernmental, there has been a rise in the international profile of the EU as an actor on the world stage.
However, coming from a large country – the UK – with a proud and independent foreign policy, I oppose the proposals in the draft EU Constitution, which sets up for the first time the legal personality of the EU and establishes the post of Foreign Minister, led by the new five-year Council President. All of this is designed to create a more coercive and binding common foreign and security policy, threatening full UK policy independence in the field of foreign affairs.
Clearly, in the EU of 25, there are now many more small countries like Mr Stubb’s home country of Finland facing the prospect of a six-monthly EU presidency if the Constitution does not come to pass. For them, it is attractive to see the economies of scale which can come from an EU diplomatic service, including their national staff manning Community delegations. There will also be financial savings from the establishment of full-blown EU embassies, in the unlikely event that the Constitution comes to pass, which can replace, in part, small countries’ bilateral missions, if necessary.
Nevertheless, I sympathise with better and more thorough diplomatic training for Relex staff sent abroad in the Commission delegations. I support more formal European Parliament scrutiny in the form of hearings of delegation heads of mission by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on appointment of this Parliament. Also, MEPs should enjoy more formalised assistance when on mission – which, it must be said, we normally do.
However, I have serious worries about granting the EU more trappings of statehood, which the EAS signifies, if it further reduces my country’s ability to conduct its own independent foreign and security policy when it is in our own national interest to do so.