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The European External Action Service

One of the major reforms introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, was the creation of a European External Action Service (EEAS) designed to assist the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, in carrying out her tasks. The EEAS began its work in December 2010. Following a phase of extensive development, it has raised the EU’s visibility in the field of foreign policy. The EEAS has a large number of employees from the EU Member States, including Germany.

EU external action in the Treaty of Lisbon

One of the main objectives of the Treaty of Lisbon is to make the EU more effective and coherent in the field of external action. The aim is that the EU will speak with one voice, thus enabling it to play its rightful role in the world.The Treaty of Lisbon created the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. From November 2009 to October 2014, the position was held by Baroness Catherine Ashton of the UK. The Council appointed former Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini as the new High Representative as of 1 November 2014.

The new role of High Representative brings together three functions that had previously been performed by different people: the former High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the former Commissioner for External Relations and the former chair of the Foreign Affairs Council (a post that previously rotated between the Member States). The High Representative serves as one of the Vice-Presidents of the European Commission, and is also charged with coordinating other aspects of external action on its behalf. She represents the EU on CFSP issues, a role previously fulfilled by the rotating Presidency.

The European External Action Service (EEAS)

The European External Action Service (EEAS) supports the High Representative in performing the tasks laid down for this role in the Treaty of Lisbon, both in the CFSP/CSDP sphere and as Vice-President of the European Commission. It works closely with the diplomatic services of the Member States. The relevant provision of the Treaty on European Union (Article 27 (3)) is as follows:

[The European External Action 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.

The EEAS is an institution independent of the Council and the Commission. The units (with over 1500 staff) previously dealing with external relations in the Council Secretariat and the Commission have been integrated into the new organisation. The EEAS has its headquarters in Brussels and around 140 EU Delegations (“EU embassies”) in third countries and at international organisations. In late July 2010, the Council approved the arrangements for the organisation and functioning of the EEAS.

The Corporate Board assisting the High Representative comprises an Executive Secretary General, two Deputy Secretaries General and a Chief Operating Officer. Below them there are seven Managing Directors in charge of regional units (Asia; Europe/Russia/Central Asia; Middle East; North/Central/South America; Africa), issues-based units (e.g. multilateral affairs, human rights, crisis response and security) and human resources and finances. The EU’s crisis management structures have also been integrated into the EEAS. They plan and organise EU missions within the scope of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

German diplomats in the EEAS

A third of EEAS staff come from the diplomatic services of the Member States, and are seconded to the EEAS for a limited period. German diplomats hold various high-ranking positions in the EEAS. As Deputy Secretary General, Helga Schmid is a member of the Corporate Board. Stephan Auer was appointed Director of Multilateral Relations and Global Issues, while Roland Schäfer serves as Director for the Americas at the EEAS headquarters. German diplomats also hold important posts in the EU Delegations – e.g. in Geneva, Luanda and Washington – as well as at the EEAS headquarters in Brussels.


Last updated 19.01.2015

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