New Treaty Sets Powerful Post
European Union politicians achieved a key goal at their summit in late June: an agreement to set up a position equivalent to EU foreign minister. Supporters of the “reform treaty”—in reality a revived EU constitution—and its foreign minister provision called the new post a step forward for European unity and power. Detractors contend that it will only create a powerful European foreign office that will compete with those of member nations.
The new office, officially “the high representative of the Union for foreign affairs and security policy,” absorbs those of both the EU’s foreign policy head and the European Commission’s external relations commissioner. The high representative will control the Commission’s aid budget and become the Council’s top diplomat and crisis-solver. He or she will chair meetings among foreign ministers of EU member states and will control 120 European Commission delegations: thousands of diplomats assigned to countries around the world that some say are a ready-made EU department of state.
Significantly, the responsibilities associated with this new post are precisely the same as those envisaged for the foreign minister in the rejected EU constitution; the only difference is the title.
The new treaty states that the EU’s foreign policy will lead to “the progressive framing of a common defense policy that might lead to a common defense.”
“We have exactly what we wanted,” one Spanish official said. “The foreign minister will have the political clout necessary to do his job and will control the administrative services too” (Sunday Telegraph, June 24).
The EU has suffered from chronic squabbles and labyrinthine decision-making among nations reluctant to relinquish power. The decision at June’s summit was the latest attempt to clear away these barriers and make the Union more of a sleek and streamlined body capable of acting quickly and decisively—whether member nations like it or not.
“I hope the small print of the new treaty does not put the UK on a slippery slope to a Euro Foreign Office,” Timothy Kirkhope, the British leader of European Parliament Conservatives, said (ibid.). Other critics said the new EU office and its corps would indeed encroach upon the foreign-policy wishes of London and other national governments and eventually replace them with the wishes of Brussels.
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