The EEAS: the Devil is in the Detail
|Tuesday, 4. May 2010 3 comment(s)||
Researcher - The European Union research programme
Last week’s media reporting from Brussels suggested that the long-term efforts of streamlining EU foreign policy-making was getting somewhat forgotten in the latest design for the EEAS set-up. It was hinted that the EU foreign ministers and the new High Representative (HR) had reviewed the administrative architecture of the EEAS and that the Council was ready to delimit the power of the central administration’s Secretary-General (SG) to meet the demands of the European Parliament. Instead of a powerful Secretary-General and two deputy SGs (or assistants), a collegial leadership of three top officials of equal ranking with one of them acting as primus inter pares was reported to be gaining ground.
These reports of recent developments in the EEAS battle fields are however not fully supported by a more careful reading of the political agreement of 26 April. The proposal for a Council decision does certainly now mention an ‘executive’ SG instead of referring to an SG without a prefix, and the line stating that he/she “shall represent the EEAS” has been removed, but the SG shall still be “assisted by two Deputy Secretary-Generals”.
These changes imply that the new SG post might not become as political as earlier proposed, but rather a top administrative post. Fair enough, it is a legitimate approach to not concentrate political power in the hands of a non-elected official – a criticism continuously raised by the European Parliament. At the same time, the new formulation appears luckily to not go as far as to produce an organizational architecture too horizontal for its own good – keeping several top officials without a clear division of labour accountable would not have been an easy task. So far, pretty good. If only this fine balance between efficiency and accountability was not watered down in the midst of the upcoming inter-institutional talks.
For now, the emerging organizational chart still provides a clear line of authority and responsibility, necessary from the point of view of efficient policy-making – and there are good arguments to keep it that way. A coherent and accountable foreign service calls for a clear leadership structure, while the model of collegiality – part of the Commission’s organizational structure – should be reserved for policy areas that require less rapid action and where national interests are more convergent. In the case of the EEAS, the organizational example of the previous Council Secretariat might actually serve the purpose better. The model of an SG and a deputy SG has surely been criticized for its hierarchical nature, but with a clear chain of command in place, there was no need to wonder who was in charge in Brussels when Mr. Solana was out of office.
A modern European diplomatic service calls for a chief of administration as much as the national foreign services do. The EU might be a soft power and it might wish to remain so, but if the aim is to stay true to the novel idea of creating a common diplomatic service for an emerging global actor, the EEAS devil should not be allowed to lie in the missing detail of a clear chain of command.
Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors