EU — Speech on the creation of the European External Action Service

Speech by High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cather­ine Ash­ton to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment on the cre­ation of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice
Stras­bourg, 07 July 2010
I am delight­ed to be here to dis­cuss one of the most impor­tant issues on the Euro­pean agen­da — the cre­ation of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice.

Let me start with a word of grat­i­tude for the con­struc­tive engage­ment of the Par­lia­ment and the rap­por­teurs – in par­tic­u­lar Elmar Brok, Guy Ver­hof­s­tadt and Rober­to Gualtieri — through­out this process. And to the com­mit­tees – AFET, Devel­op­ment, Con­sti­tu­tion­al Affairs, Bud­get and Bud­getary Con­trol, JURI – whose work has improved the text for the EEAS deci­sion in many ways. And to the Pres­i­dent of the par­lia­ment: Thank you.

We have achieved a lot togeth­er in recent weeks, build­ing the nec­es­sary com­mon ground among all con­cerned. I pay trib­ute to the oth­er mem­bers of our Quadri­logue, Maros Sef­cov­ic and the Com­mis­sion, and the Span­ish Pres­i­den­cy led by Miguel Morati­nos togeth­er with col­leagues in the Council.

I am espe­cial­ly grate­ful to the legal ser­vices who have offered us good advice and sup­port throughout.

Now the time has come to decide.

In recent months, there has been a lot of atten­tion, right­ly, on the insti­tu­tion­al com­plex­i­ties and admin­is­tra­tive intri­ca­cies. Lay­ing the foun­da­tions is a crit­i­cal task, but with­out los­ing sight of the rea­sons we are cre­at­ing this ser­vice. Rea­sons that have become more and more obvi­ous as I have trav­elled, on your behalf, to vis­it Gov­ern­ments, Mil­i­tary mis­sions, our del­e­ga­tions and pro­grammes across the world.

So before going fur­ther into the detail let me just say some­thing about the vision for the EEAS in the future.

There is no bet­ter place than this House and no bet­ter moment than today to remind our­selves why the EEAS is so impor­tant for the EU. Why it marks a change in how we oper­ate in a fast chang­ing geopo­lit­i­cal landscape.

We can­not afford to act in a dis­parate man­ner in a world that is see­ing fun­da­men­tal pow­er shifts and where prob­lems are increas­ing­ly com­plex and inter-linked.

We need to defend Europe’s inter­ests and project Europe’s val­ues in a more coher­ent and effec­tive way. And we should be ambi­tious in how we do it.

The Euro­pean Union and the Mem­ber-States have an impres­sive array of instru­ments, resources, rela­tion­ships and exper­tise to help build a bet­ter, more sta­ble world.

Now we need to bring all this togeth­er, to forge joined up strate­gies and max­imise our impact on the ground. Par­tic­u­lar­ly in the trou­bled parts of the world where our action mat­ters the most. Wher­ev­er I have trav­elled – from Gaza to Haiti to East Africa and Balka­ns – this has been the key conclusion.

EU exter­nal action will always involve dif­fer­ent actors. It is right and prop­er that devel­op­ment pol­i­cy oper­ates dif­fer­ent­ly from diplo­ma­cy, cri­sis man­age­ment or human­i­tar­i­an aid. Andris Piebal­gs, Ste­fan Fule and Kris­tili­na Georgie­va, togeth­er with oth­er Com­mis­sion col­leagues, have clear, dis­tinct roles and I pay trib­ute to the work they are doing –under Lis­bon we have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to oper­ate under one shared com­pre­hen­sive polit­i­cal strategy.

An aspi­ra­tion now becom­ing reality

My vision for the EEAS is one which ensures that when we speak, our voice is heard. And when we engage, our actions make the dif­fer­ence. Our cit­i­zens know that in the face of big prob­lems such as frag­ile states, pan­demics, ener­gy secu­ri­ty, cli­mate change and ille­gal migra­tion, we are more effec­tive together.

And that effec­tive­ness requires us to mobilise all the means at our dis­pos­al – diplo­ma­cy, polit­i­cal engage­ment, devel­op­ment assis­tance, civ­il and mil­i­tary cri­sis man­age­ment tools in sup­port of con­flict pre­ven­tion, peace build­ing, secu­ri­ty and stability.

Impor­tant for the future of Europe, impor­tant for the future of the world.

I have seen myself what we are capa­ble of when we work togeth­er. When I trav­elled to East Africa I saw what our naval oper­a­tion, Ata­lan­ta, is doing so well off-shore. But I also saw the impor­tant capac­i­ty build­ing and devel­op­ment work on-shore. And as those engaged in our mil­i­tary mis­sion were quick to say – the solu­tion to the prob­lems at sea lies on the land.

And that is why, work­ing with Andris Piebals, we are mak­ing sure our pro­grammes work bet­ter togeth­er. And why I will be return­ing to meet again with the lead­ers of Kenya, Tan­za­nia, Mau­ri­tius, Sey­chelles, South Africa, Mozam­bique the Region­al organ­i­sa­tions and AU, to dis­cuss how we can sup­port their African lead­er­ship to find polit­i­cal solu­tions on the ground and how we can sup­port the peo­ple of Soma­lia to a bet­ter future.

I know what we can, and are doing – I also know what we can achieve for the future. I am ambi­tious – I con­fess, for I believe it is time to move for­ward and get the Ser­vice up and run­ning quickly.

We have a good deal on the table: a draft Deci­sion and a set of Dec­la­ra­tions that form a coher­ent pack­age. Mr Pres­i­dent I am sub­mit­ting them for­mal­ly to the record of today’s pro­ceed­ings. I will not dwell on each and every aspect, but let me high­light some spe­cif­ic points on how we have found prop­er safe­guards in areas that I know are impor­tant to this House:

— First and fore­most, the text makes clear that we are safe­guard­ing the Com­mu­ni­ty method in all areas where it exists today. The EEAS will co-oper­ate close­ly with the Com­mis­sion ser­vices as part of the EU system.

— Sec­ond, I know how impor­tant polit­i­cal account­abil­i­ty is for this House. I am con­fi­dent that a good frame­work has been found through the polit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion on Polit­i­cal Account­abil­i­ty. I am look­ing for­ward to the inten­sive dia­logue and exchange of infor­ma­tion with the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and will make sure that my col­lab­o­ra­tors also give high pri­or­i­ty to this aspect of their work.

The many oblig­a­tions inher­ent in the job as High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive do not allow me to be present as often as I would like in your debates.

But I am hap­py that we will have a sys­tem for my replace­ment in such cas­es, involv­ing in par­tic­u­lar col­leagues from the Com­mis­sion and from time to time also a Mem­ber of the For­eign Affaires Coun­cil from the rotat­ing Pres­i­den­cy or the Pres­i­den­cy trio.

— Third, finan­cial account­abil­i­ty. I am sat­is­fied that we have clear lan­guage and guar­an­tees regard­ing sound finan­cial man­age­ment includ­ing appro­pri­ate solu­tions to issues such as dis­charge and sub-del­e­ga­tion of bud­getary pow­ers to Heads of Delegation.

As a sign of the impor­tance I attach to this issue I envis­age a senior man­age­ment team that not only has a Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer in the Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al but also a Chief Oper­at­ing Offi­cer in the senior DG for bud­get and administration.

— Fourth, we have agreed care­ful­ly bal­anced arrange­ments regard­ing devel­op­ment pol­i­cy and instru­ments. I know there was some con­cern that we might lose sight of devel­op­ment pol­i­cy in the new set-up. Believe me, the oppo­site is the case.

Devel­op­ment is cen­tral to EU exter­nal action. It has giv­en give us a strong pro­file on the inter­na­tion­al stage, as the world’s lead­ing donor. So, our coop­er­a­tion pro­grammes are a key tool in our bilat­er­al and region­al relationships.

This remains the case in the new Lis­bon con­text. But Devel­op­ment can­not be pur­sued on its own, sep­a­rate from oth­er strands of exter­nal relations.

That is why we are cre­at­ing a strong com­mon plat­form, allow­ing us to work togeth­er – Andris Piebal­gs, Ste­fan Füle and myself — to ensure that gen­er­al devel­op­ment objec­tives and pover­ty reduc­tion in par­tic­u­lar are main­streamed in our coop­er­a­tion pro­grammes. — Fifth, we also have a bal­anced agree­ment on staff issues, between the wish of Mem­ber States to have at least one-third of staff in the EEAS com­ing from nation­al diplo­mat­ic ser­vices – so that we can draw on their exper­tise, lan­guage and his­tor­i­cal ties – while at the same time ensur­ing at least 60% of per­ma­nent officials.

In the same way, I am clear we need to ensure a prop­er gen­der and geo­graph­i­cal bal­ance, and not lose sight of wider diver­si­ty issues.

I am per­son­al­ly com­mit­ted to this. Diver­si­ty is strength. A ser­vice that rep­re­sents the EU should reflect that diver­si­ty. The wealth of expe­ri­ence, insights and lan­guages that Europe’s best diplo­mats will bring into the Ser­vice, will be one of our dis­tinc­tive fea­tures and com­pet­i­tive advan­tage. — Sixth, you will have seen my Dec­la­ra­tion on the EEAS’ cen­tral admin­is­tra­tion. The idea is that we all have a shared under­stand­ing on how the Ser­vice will look like. I agree with the amend­ments that you have pro­posed and I will sup­port them in the Coun­cil. It is impor­tant to try to get things right at the begin­ning while giv­ing our­selves the chance to review how things work, in light of new pri­or­i­ties and developments.

Mem­bers of this house have asked a num­ber of ques­tions on the han­dling of Cri­sis man­age­ment and peace­build­ing. I can assure you that the CSDP struc­tures will be part of the EEAS in the way that was agreed by the Euro­pean Coun­cil in Octo­ber 2009 and as fore­seen in the EEAS Decision.

I will ensure that the rel­e­vant units from the Com­mis­sion which deal with plan­ning and pro­gram­ming of cri­sis response, con­flict pre­ven­tion and peace build­ing, and the CSDP struc­tures, work in close coop­er­a­tion and syn­er­gy, both under my direct respon­si­bil­i­ty and author­i­ty with­in the appro­pri­ate struc­ture. This is of course with­out prej­u­dice to the spe­cif­ic nature, notably inter­gov­ern­men­tal and com­mu­ni­tar­i­an, of the policies.

Effec­tive coor­di­na­tion of the work of the var­i­ous depart­ments in the EEAS will be key. Under my direct author­i­ty and respon­si­bil­i­ty, full coor­di­na­tion between all the ser­vices of the EEAS, in par­tic­u­lar between the CSDP struc­tures and the oth­er rel­e­vant ser­vices of the EEAS will be ensured, respect­ing the spe­cif­ic nature of these structures.

I will also ensure that the right coor­di­na­tion is estab­lished between the EU Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the rel­e­vant Depart­ments in the EEAS.

— Final­ly, this House has also always paid great atten­tion to Human Rights issues. This is a pri­or­i­ty I ful­ly share and I promise that as High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive I will give high pri­or­i­ty to the pro­mo­tion of Human Rights and good gov­er­nance around the globe and make sure they are a sil­ver thread run­ning through every­thing we do.

There will be a human rights and democ­ra­cy struc­ture at head­quar­ters lev­el as well as focal points in all rel­e­vant Union del­e­ga­tions with the task of mon­i­tor­ing the human rights sit­u­a­tion and pro­mot­ing an effec­tive real­i­sa­tion of EU human rights pol­i­cy goals. Hon­ourable Members,

Europe needs the Exter­nal Action Ser­vice to build a stronger for­eign pol­i­cy. We need an inte­grat­ed plat­form to project Euro­pean val­ues and inter­ests around the world. It is time to give our­selves the means to realise our ambi­tions. It is time to get the right peo­ple in place to start doing the nec­es­sary work.

I agree with the amend­ments that you have pro­posed and I will sup­port them in the Coun­cil. I thank you for co-oper­a­tion and I am count­ing on your support.

The vote you are mak­ing is an his­toric step in the devel­op­ment of the Euro­pean Union. And although it isn’t the des­ti­na­tion, it’s a key stag­ing post in real­is­ing our shared vision for the future.

Thank you 

Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union 

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