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The European External Action Service

One of the major new reforms introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, is the creation of a European External Action Service (EEAS) designed to assist the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, in carrying out her tasks. The EEAS was launched in December 2010. A considerable number of EEAS staff have now been recruited from the 28 EU member states, which include 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 coherent and effective in the field of foreign policy. The intention is for the EU in future to be better able to speak with one voice and so play its rightful role in the world.

The Treaty created the new post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In November 2009 the European Council appointed British national Catherine Ashton, a former European Commissioner for Trade, as the first High Representative.

Unlike Javier Solana, the previous EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the new High Representative also chairs the Foreign Affairs Council and is a member of the Commission, where as Vice President she is responsible for external relations and coordinates all related aspects in this connection. This combination of powers is intended to help the High Representative significantly improve the effectiveness and coherence of EU external action.

European External Action Service to support the new High Representative

The European External Action Service (EEAS) assists the High Representative, in line with the Treaty on European Union (TEU), in fulfilling her duties under the Treaty both in the CFSP sphere and as Vice President of the Commission. The new EEAS will complement and work together with the diplomatic services of the member states. The relevant provision of the TEU (Article 27 (3)) reads as follows:

“In fulfilling his mandate, the High Representative shall be assisted by a European External Action Service. This 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 organization 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.”

How the EEAS is organized

The European External Action Service 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 organization. The EEAS has its headquarters in Brussels and so called EU Delegations (“EU embassies”) in third countries and at international organizations. In late July 2010 the Council approved the arrangements for the organization and functioning of the EEAS.

The top level team assisting the High Representative are the Executive Secretary General, two Deputy Secretaries General (one of whom is the German diplomat Helga Schmid) and a Chief Operating Officer. Below them there are five Managing Directors in charge of regional units (Asia; Europe/Russia/Central Asia; Middle East; North/Central/South America; Africa), one Managing Director in charge of issues-based units (e.g. multilateral affairs, human rights, crisis prevention and security) and one in charge of human resources and finances. The EU’s crisis management structures have also been integrated into the EEAS.

German nationals in the EEAS

The intention is for one third of EEAS posts to be filled by staff seconded from the member states for a period of four to eight years. Recruitment for posts in the EU Delegations as well as at headquarters in Brussels is an ongoing process. German diplomats have been appointed to a number of senior EEAS posts. As already noted, Helga Schmid holds one of the Deputy Secretary General posts, Markus Ederer is Head of the EU Delegation in Beijing and Hansjörg Haber is in charge of crisis management. On 9 November 2012 High Representative Catherine Ashton announced two new headquarters appointments: Stephan Auer as Director for Multilateral Relations and Global Issues and Roland Schäfer as Director for the Americas. German nationals also hold important posts in EU Delegations – e.g. New York, Geneva and Kabul – as well as at EEAS headquarters in Brussels. Patricia Flor and Andreas Reinicke, both German nationals, are serving in prominent EEAS posts as EU Special Representative for Central Asia and EU Special Representative for the Middle East peace process.


Last updated 01.07.2013

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