Can the EU deliver joined-up thinking and action in international development? Eight steps for a better External Action Service
Can the EUEuropean Union deliver joined-up thinking and action in international development? Yes, but substantial changes are required to build on current best practice – in fact eight specific changes which should be recommended by the review currently underway of the EU’s external affairs. Read on to find out what they are . . .
Defining the problem
‘Joined-up thinking’ is a frequent call in international development: joining up aid to trade, finance, migration, agriculture, fisheries – and, most frequently, foreign policy and defence. In policy terms, this leads to what the EUEuropean Union calls ‘Policy Coherence for Development’ (PCD), or what some donors (in a more limited way) have called Triple-D thinking (Development, Diplomacy and Defence). Institutionally, the objective can be achieved in different ways: raising the profile and weight of international development in Government, for example by creating an independent Department for International Development (as in the UK); or, conversely, by mainstreaming international development within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (as in most other countries). I don’t know of a systematic attempt to review the success of alternative models, and would be glad to hear of one. Do, however, read the 2010 report of the European Think-Tanks Group, ‘New Challenges, New Beginnings’, which makes the case for joining up.
Many issues arise in joining up international development, especially in the context of Triple-D. Will the allocation of aid be shaped by poverty need or the dictates of foreign policy? Will aid spending be militarised? I wrote about this in 2007, in a piece on how development and foreign policy connect, and asked
‘But what if ‘we’ and ‘they’ were actually on the same side? What if ‘we’ (development ministries, say) and ‘they’ (foreign ministries, say, or defence ministries, or trade ministries or environment ministries) were trying to grapple together with intractable and inter-related challenges, in countries and regions with complex collations of political, military and developmental problems? . . . Would it make sense to reconsider the acute ring-fencing that currently prevails?’
In that case,
- ‘What are the shared values that operate across the development, humanitarian, foreign policy, military and environmental spheres?
- Does the new doctrine of integrated engagement apply only to current or potential ‘fragile states’ (however defined), or more widely?
- Should humanitarian action be co-opted to this agenda or does it have a special status?
- Who is responsible for defining and managing integrated strategies, and with what accountability?
- What is meant by ‘poverty reduction’? What can money legitimately be spent on?
- Should the DACDevelopment Assistance Committee (of the OECD) criteria on what is allowable as oda be revised?
- What would be the implications of an integrated approach for the level, geographical allocation and sectoral composition of spending?
- Even if aid money remains ring-fenced, would a better appreciation of the foreign policy or defence or environmental context change spending priorities?‘
These questions remain highly relevant in the UK (see, for example, my recent piece on the future of UK oda), but also elsewhere. In the EU, the issue has current salience, because the external relations structure created by the Lisbon Treaty is currently being reviewed. As a contribution to this review, the House of Lords in the UK Parliament has just (March 2013) published a report on the EU’s External Action Service (EEAS). Their conclusions will no doubt also be relevant to the Balance of Competences Review launched by the UK Government in December 2012. The consultations on development and foreign policy have both recently closed, with reports awaited. (See our submission here, and earlier contributions on the design of the EEAS here and here ).
From a development perspective, the headline message of the House of Lords report is that ‘thus far, the EEAS appears to have brought no significant benefit to the EU’s handling of trade and development issues’. I wonder, however, whether this is completely fair. The Committee’s own analysis suggests that the impact of the EEAS partly depends on where benefit is sought. The Committee itself concludes that ‘the EEAS has been successful in a number of areas, notably in the development of a ‘comprehensive approach’ to certain countries and regions, such as the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, where it brought together all the instruments available to the EU’. Does that not sound quite promising?
The relevant chapter on substantive achievements and challenges is reproduced below for ease of reference. However, before entering into detail, we need first to take a step back and understand the institutional history.
The institutional history
In Brussels, a paper commitment to PCD, manifested in a cross-institutional work programme, has historically been hampered by the independence of sectoral Commissioners, each independently a member of the College of Commissioners, each responsible for independent Commission Services, and each subject to sector-specific policy priorities and pressures. Thus, there have been Commissioners for Development, Trade, Agriculture and External Relations, among others, each with separate mandates. In addition, the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997, created the post of High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, reporting to and acting on behalf of the European Council, i.e. the Member States.
The Lisbon Treaty, which came into force in 2009, was designed to rationalise the structure. The post of High Representative was combined with that of External Affairs Commissioner, with the rank of Vice President of the Commission, to create a post usually described as HR/VP. The HR/VP leads the new European External Action Service, described as a diplomatic service for the EU. The post is mandated by Article 18 of the Lisbon Treaty to ‘ensure the consistency of the Union's external action’ and is responsible for ‘coordinating other aspects of the Union's external action’. The current incumbent, Baroness Catherine Ashton, is the ‘First Vice President’, meaning that she deputises for the Commission President. She chairs the Foreign Affairs Council of EUEuropean Union Foreign Ministers (which is where EUEuropean Union development policy is made). She also has the opportunity to chair meetings of External Affairs Commissioners, the RELEX Group, but (a) has apparently not called such a meeting since December 2011, and (b) anyway this Group is limited in its coverage of external issues, comprising development, humanitarian aid, trade and enlargement/neighbourhood, but not climate, say, or agriculture or employment.
There was quite an argument after the Lisbon Treaty was ratified about exactly how these new arrangements would work. Was Ashton to be senior to the other external Commissioners, in the sense that they would report to her? No. Would she have sole responsibility for programming aid? No. But would she be responsible for overall coordination? Yes. And would she have sign-off on aid spending? Also yes. The full list of responsibilities is contained in a Council Decision of 26 July 2010. Article 9 deals with the programming of external instruments. Note especially that the EEAS is responsible for country strategies, financial allocations and programming. In the case of the Development Cooperation Instrument and the European Development Fund, however, programming is to be carried out jointly with EuropeAid, ‘under the responsibility of the Development Commissioner’, and submitted jointly with him or her. A great deal of energy in Brussels has been expended on the interpretation of these words!
Where are we now?
So here we are, then, three years since Baroness Ashton took up her position, and two years into the life of the EEAS. What have we learned? The House of Lords Report contains a great deal of analysis about roles, establishment issues, budgets and accountability, but the chapter reproduced below also contains important information – and raises tantalising questions - about how joined-up thinking works in practice.
First, the Report celebrates the idea of a ‘comprehensive approach’ to areas in crisis, citing the Horn of Africa, the Sahel (including Mali) and the Southern Neighbourhood (including Serbia/Kosovo and the Arab Spring). In the Horn of Africa, for example, ‘the EUEuropean Union had combined the various CFSP instruments: crisis management, the anti-piracy Operation Atalanta, deployment of training missions, projects for training the naval forces of the countries in the region, a more coherent deployment of the EU’s development cooperation instruments and using the EU’s political influence in a more intelligent way.’ The overall strategy is described in the Horn of Africa strategy approved by the Council in November 2011 (which includes reference to humanitarian assistance).
It would have been interesting to know more about what is meant by ‘deploying the development cooperation instruments in a more coherent way’. Are there implications for the volume of resources as well as how they are used (cf the large increase in UK aid to Pakistan or Afghanistan)? And how does ‘coherence’ impact on the overall policy priorities of the Commission’s aid programme, including the European Consensus on Development and Agenda for Change and the specific priorities laid down in the Regulations governing the different instruments? This looks like a case study worth unpacking.
Second, the Report accepts that there are advantages in using EUEuropean Union institutions in a coordinating function, in order to try and achieve coherence among the EU’s 27 Member States, but also that this is sometimes a fraught process. This is not always straightforward, in development aid either – witness the long debates on the development side about joint programming and division of labour, both central pillars of Andris Piebalgs’ Agenda for Change. It might have been interesting to discuss the incentives for joint action in different areas, in some of which the EUEuropean Union has exclusive competence, such as trade, and in others of which it has a form of shared competence, as in climate. I wonder how much the EEAS takes an interest in such topics.
Third, the Report notes continuing ‘turf wars’ between the HR/VP and other Commissioners. It emphasises that this is ‘simply not acceptable’ and says that ‘solutions include ensuring that policy coordination meetings of external commissioners, in particular the Commissioners for development, neighbourhood policy and enlargement, and the HR/VP take place regularly during the year’. The Lords have a touching faith in ‘policy coordination meetings’! It is also notable that they do not include trade or climate (or humanitarian) Commissioners in the list of those who should participate.
Fourth, specifically on trade, the Report finds little impact of the creation of the EEAS, in fact ‘no significant effect on the way in which the EUEuropean Union handles trade policy’. However, it notes the possibility that trade policy could be infused with more geo-strategic content. That could be good news if it were to accelerate progress at the WTO, but could equally lead the other way, to more protectionism.
Fifth, on development, a similar conclusion in the summary of the Report, but more substantive (and divergent) views in the main text, with some witnesses citing positive elements, like joint programming by the EEAS and the Commission, and others pointing to the possibility of the politicisation of aid. I suspect we will know more about this when the programming for the 2014-20 financial period is complete, probably later this year.
Sixth, on crisis management, conflict and peace-building, the Report concluded there was some enthusiasm for the role of the EEAS, for example creating a Crisis Management Board and a Crisis Platform, bringing together expertise across the EEAS and the Commission. There was however more to do before these structures became effective.
Finally, in a comment thrown in at the end, the report supports the independence of ECHOEuropean Community Humanitarian Office from the EEAS. That’s intriguing. Does it imply that others should not be independent? Personally, I’m strongly in favour of protecting the core principles of humanitarian action, especially impartiality and neutrality, but remain to be convinced that this requires an independent, detached body (ECHO) within the Commission. This leads to real problems in linking relief and development, as I have recently observed in the case of the EU’s policy on resilience.
Eight recommendations for the future
Where does this leave us for the future, in particular in relation to the EEAS review? I conclude that we don’t yet have answers to some of the questions I posed in 2007, but that we can begin to see the way forward, especially when a new Commission takes office in 2014. There are 8 key recommendations.
1. The term ‘external action’ may need revisiting, and that may mean revisiting also the Council Decision of July 2010. The purpose would be to make sure that all aspects of external policy fall within the remit of the EEAS, including some which may appear to be mainly internal (such as agriculture) and others which are both internal and external (like climate or environment).
2. The RELEX group should be reconstituted with this larger membership, and should be used more proactively, chaired by the HR/VP as a kind of Cabinet Committee for the Commission. (I use ‘Cabinet’ in the UK Government sense, of a Committee of Members of the Commission who clear business in advance of the main Commission meeting, rather than referring to the private office (‘Cabinet’ ) of Commissioners).
3. The remit of the HR/VP may need clarification, to ensure that he/she has sufficient authority to deliver policy coherence. This is tricky territory, however. One option is to have a direct reporting relationship between Commissioners. This is certainly what happens for aid in many countries, where the development minister is a member of the foreign affairs team; it also happens sometimes in trade (e.g. in Denmark). However, it does not occur with regard to defence. In any case, there is strong resistance to the idea of having senior and junior members of the Commission. Another option has been to move units and responsibilities into the EEAS, as has been the case with regard to the programming of aid – but that can also be problematic if it leads to the mis-spending of aid. In the UK, this problem is solved in the case of aid by having legislation which protects the purposes of the aid programme and a Secretary of State who is a full member of the Cabinet. He or she is also a member of the National Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, and with the participation of nine other senior ministers. In the case of the EU, Article 208 of the Treaty of the European Union protects the poverty focus of the aid programme. Perhaps having a strong RELEX Committee feeding into the Commission would provide an additional safeguard?
4. This does, though, link to the problem of the HR/VP being overloaded, and with no political deputies. If there really are to be no junior Commissioners, which seems indefensible given the way most Member State Governments are organised, then surely the answer has to be to locate powers and workload elsewhere. For example, should the Development Commissioner be thought of, narrowly, as the ‘Development Aid Commissioner’, or instead be tasked with leading all work on development-related policy coherence, with appropriate lines of accountability. The Development Commissioner could chair one or more sub-Committees of the Relex Group, thus lifting the load on the HR/VP. The UK National Security Council has three sub-Committees, and other Cabinet Committees probably do too.
(I have an idea here, which is to appoint two Commissioners from each country, one senior and one junior. This would enable busy Departments, like External Affairs, to have two or three ‘junior ministers’ to assist the Commissioner)
5. Regardless of the structures, there is a lot to be said for having a comprehensive approach, exemplified by geographic strategies and action plans, as well as sectoral plans. In my experience, there have been some excellent examples (including the recent Communication on post-2015 development and environment goals), but there is often a real problem with cross-cutting sector plans, as for example trade and development, which turned out largely to be owned and written by the trade DG. Similarly, the Commission has failed to produce a promised strategy on climate change and development. Nevertheless, it would be reasonable to task the Commission with producing and reporting against a series of genuinely cross-cutting geographical and sector strategies. Priorities? North Africa. Af/Pak. Korean Peninsula. Climate. Global financial stability. Food security. Taxation.
6. In developing cross-cutting, joined-up strategies, it will be important to hang on to the core principles of the different areas of intervention. These are enshrined in the Regulations governing different instruments, currently under discussion for the period 2014-20. It will also be important to track carefully discussions underway at the DACDevelopment Assistance Committee (of the OECD) about the definitions of oda, including on the treatment of loans and of military expenditures. Commissioners need to be accountable for defending the core principles embedded in their programmes, including in law. We want no Pergau dams!
7. Stronger parliamentary scrutiny will also be important, especially if Triple-D thinking leads to a change in the way aid money is allocated or spent. Stronger parliamentary scrutiny should probably be built into any new arrangements, although without micro-managing the budgets. The European Parliament is currently not well equipped to handle cross-cutting issues and should re-think its Committee structure. For example, it is notable that the EP Development Committee does not deal with either trade of finance, both of which ‘belong’ elsewhere.
8. Finally, implementation at the field level will require that Delegation Heads have sufficient expertise in policy coherence issues. It may be good to introduce more permeability between the EEAS and senior staff in relevant Commission Services, especially EuropeAid. In many developing countries, it might well be appropriate that the Head of the Delegation be seconded from EuropeAid.
Extract from the Report of the House of Lords European Union Committee Report, ‘The EU’s External Action Service’
(Note: for footnotes and references, see:
CHAPTER 3: ACHIEVEMENTS AND CHALLENGES
86. A key question for the Committee was to identify the extent of added value which the EEAS brought to the diplomatic efforts of individual Member States. The Committee also considered the related question of “value for money”. Hugo Shorter pointed out that it was difficult for any foreign service to measure success or failure quantitatively. Graham Avery asked how the value could be assessed, for example, of the united European voice on Syria. A number of witnesses told us that there were advantages in doing things collectively, or where the EEAS had something different to offer.
The comprehensive approach, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel
87. Witnesses referred particularly to the formulation and implementation of the EU’s comprehensive approach in areas in crisis as a field where the EEAS had been successful. The aim under this approach is to bring together all the EU’s instruments in one joined-up policy to further its aims. The EEAS told us that, alongside “the considerable challenge of setting up the Service,” the main challenge for the Service had been promoting this comprehensive approach.
88. We explored whether the comprehensive approach had contributed to coherence in the EU’s external relations. The prime example cited by witnesses was the Horn of Africa, where we were told that the Minister for Europe said that, under the previous system, the instruments and missions would have been available, but there would have been no institutional arrangement to ensure that they were coordinated.
89. A further example of the comprehensive approach has been the EU’s activity in the Sahel region of North Africa. Nicholas Westcott commented that, in Mali, the EUEuropean Union was also working with a Member State (France) and others in a coordinated effort, combining the EEAS’s political power, the Commission’s financial fire power, and action by Member States. The Minister for Europe also raised the EU’s response to the Arab Spring, where the EEAS had drafted a renewed southern neighbourhood policy, which reflected British priorities, emphasising conditionality and the need to pull the EU’s instruments together in a package, though conditionality had not yet been taken forward with sufficient rigour or energy. Gary Quince told us that his Delegation in Addis Ababa was also working in other areas where the EEAS had been able to bring a range of policy and financial instruments to bear as a package, including political, development, humanitarian, military and security elements (see paragraphs 141 to 145 on crisis management).
90. Hugo Shorter considered that the EEAS provided useful coordination on the ground of the different EUEuropean Union instruments. The Head of Delegation also coordinated development programmes and political engagement in third countries in a way that Member State embassies could not do because they were running their own programmes. Nicholas Westcott told us that, during the Mali crisis, the EUEuropean Union Delegation had the best network of contacts, including in the north, because of its development programmes, and was therefore better informed than any Member State.
91. Arnaud Danjean MEP gave us a different view and maintained that the EU’s attempt at implementing a comprehensive approach had failed because of the problems in merging cultures, information and procedures of officials between the Commission, the Council and national diplomacies. He attributed this to insufficient political will and competences which were too divided. Internal leadership was needed for the EEAS to implement decisions.
92. We applaud the objective of bringing together the different streams of the EU’s external work, whether in the EEAS or the person of the HR/VP, to form a comprehensive approach to the EU’s foreign policy. This is working well in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel and the southern neighbourhood, where different instruments have been brought together. This should continue to be the approach for the future. The new Comprehensive Approach under consideration by the Commission, in conjunction with the EEAS, should be ambitious and the EEAS should play a leading role in its formulation and implementation. We see this as a major area of further added value.
93. Hugo Shorter cited the imposition of sanctions by the EUEuropean Union as an example of an achievement by the EEAS. Sanctions involved trade, visas and financial services, and pooling these different elements in support of a foreign policy objective could add value to the efforts of individual Member States. He pointed out that it was “quite useful” to have a neutral body to help Member States make difficult decisions on subjects such as sanctions. Coordinating the views of 27 Member States on these measures was difficult, given their divergent economic and other interests. However, in 2012 the EUEuropean Union had repeatedly been able to agree to robust packages. This was an example of how diverse interests had, with the help of the EEAS and the HR/VP, been merged into a more coherent and consistent external approach, finding
Impact on political problems
94. We asked what specifically the EEAS had achieved on the ground since its inception and were given examples where the EEAS had worked successfully with the HR/VP. One of the areas most often cited by witnesses was the E3+3 negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme. The Minister for Europe thought that it would have been difficult under the previous system to combine the negotiating role on Iran and the HR/VP role as chairman of the FAC in taking forward the sanctions package. The EEAS’s work on the Middle East Peace Process was another example. Dr Cornelius Adebahr, however, criticised the EEAS’s failure to communicate EUEuropean Union policies to counter the negative image of the West portrayed by the Iranians in the media, and the lack of a delegation in Tehran following closure of Member State embassies.
95. Witnesses praised the work of the EEAS on Serbia and Kosovo, where the EUEuropean Union had developed a dialogue designed to persuade the Serbs to accept Kosovan independence and had kept Serbia on track towards EUEuropean Union accession. Edward Burke added two examples where the EEAS had taken action which the Member States could not have taken. In Tunisia, following the Arab Spring, the HR/VP and EEAS Delegation Head had brought Members together to arrange a comprehensive package of assistance measures. In Yemen, the EEAS Head of Delegation had, he thought, done “a great job” bringing the Member States together to reach agreement. Professor Whitman pointed out that a number of individual Member State embassies had closed down in Damascus during the current fighting, including that of the UK, but the EUEuropean Union Delegation had remained open and had assisted Member States who were without representation.
96. Mats Persson agreed that the EEAS had worked successfully on Iran and Serbia/Kosovo, and that the EEAS Delegation in Syria had played a useful role, but otherwise he thought that the EEAS’s performance had been patchy. He was unclear whether there were any examples of action by the EEAS which could not simply have been taken by the 27 Member States taking a common position, perhaps through the rotating presidency. There had been many examples where it had been irrelevant, though he conceded that there had been few where he thought its existence had damaged the EU’s credibility.
97. Pierre Vimont stressed the advantages of having one point of contact for third countries in the post of HR/VP, for example at Quartet meetings, whereas, under the previous system, there had been three representatives. Partners outside the EUEuropean Union were pleased as they now “know where to go.”David Spence added that the relations which the HR/VP had developed, for example with the former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had constituted a major advantage for the EU. Ambassador Wlachovský also spoke of the advantage of the EU’s being able to speak with one voice and present a “face” to the world. The “Kissinger question” had been resolved.
98. Witnesses spoke of the added value of the continuity created by moving away from dependence on the six-monthly rotating presidency, which had sometimes caused problems when smaller countries were in the presidency. David Spence said that, under the system of rotating presidencies, knowledge of how to run the presidency had sometimes been lacking, and individual presidencies varied in the emphasis they placed on different issues. Alan Charlton told us that in Brasilia, it was helpful that the EEAS, rather than the rotating presidency, now coordinated meetings of EUEuropean Union Member State ambassadors.
99. Pedro Serrano highlighted the improvement in longer-term thinking brought about by the EEAS. Under the rotating presidency system, diplomats thought about the six months of their country’s presidency. With the EEAS, it was possible also to think 10 years ahead. This was a “game-changer.” He pointed out that the EUEuropean Union was developing “greater clarity of objectives in the big issues that are challenging the European Union foreign policy,” for example for the Sahel and the Horn of Africa and Somalia. Relations with the Asian continent had become more sophisticated and the EUEuropean Union was engaging with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in a more political and targeted way than previously, “in great part … because we have the EEAS.”
100. The EEAS, in support of the HR/VP, has made a noticeable impact in a number of foreign policy areas. These include policy towards Iran, the EU’s reaction to the Arab Spring and the relations between Serbia and Kosovo, where the EU’s ability to speak with one voice has been enhanced. We hope that, once the EEAS is fully established, the time of the HR/VP will be freed to give greater focus to these and other key areas.
Reconciling policy differences
101. The EU’s CFSP was established in 1993 as an intergovernmental process under the Maastricht Treaty. The Policy was updated in the Lisbon Treaty, under which the EUEuropean Union is to “define and pursue common policies and actions” and “work for a high degree of cooperation in all fields of international relations … ” The EUEuropean Union is to “ensure consistency between the different areas of its external action and between these and its other policies.” The European Council is tasked with identifying the Union’s strategic interests, determining the objectives of the CFSP and defining its general guidelines; Member States are to “coordinate their action in international organisation sand at international conferences” and to uphold the Union’s positions in such forums.” The HR/VP is to organise this coordination, put forward proposals and put into effect the CFSP.
102. We asked our witnesses to what extent the EEAS was able to bring Member States together to produce a common position, as there had been notable differences of opinion on some key issues, such as the military action in Libya (when one Member State had abstained in the UN Security Council vote, while the other Member States had supported the resolution); and the 2012 UN General Assembly (UNGA) vote on the status of Palestine at the UN (in which 14 Member States voted in favour of recognising Palestine, one voted against, and 12 abstained). Gary Quince acknowledged that the EUEuropean Union was at its weakest when unanimity was absent. Pierre Vimont believed that there was greater unity in foreign policy than was immediately apparent. Shortly after the UN Security Council vote on Libya, the Foreign Affairs Council had unanimously agreed on the way ahead for relations with the transitional council in Benghazi. In the same way, following the three-way split in the EUEuropean Union vote at UNGA on Palestine, the 27 Member States had reaffirmed their position on the Middle East Peace process. Nicola Bellomo (Political Officer, EEAS Delegation to the AU, Addis Ababa) told us that, for cases like Libya, the EEAS tried to identify and coordinate the views of Member States in advance to discover if there were any diverging views which needed to be considered by the Political and Security Committee (PSC) in Brussels.
103. Dr Adebahr thought that the EEAS ought to be able to coordinate and lead on the development of a joint foreign policy, but that in this respect it had yet to meet the initial ambitions for the Service. Mats Persson thought that the EEAS could do more to build alliances within the EUEuropean Union on Russia, and build a common position both on individual issues and on strategic thinking. Dr Bicchi told us that, despite the pressure on Member States to converge on a common position, this did not always happen. On certain issues there was “an agreement to disagree”; the use of force and the recognition of new political actors tended to be the most divisive issues. The Minister for Europe cited the absence of coherence on EU-Russia relations stemming from the differing approaches of Member States; Germany, for example, had a different perspective from the UK or Poland. This did not therefore permit effective EU-level activity to take place.
104. Hugo Shorter also thought that the added value of the EEAS lay in helping to create unified positions on individual foreign policy issues. Once a unified position had been reached (if possible) the advantage lay in presenting a unified EUEuropean Union position to the outside world. Individual Member States’ diplomatic services could not offer this. David Spence told us that, when he EUEuropean Union issued joint statements on foreign policy issues, political weight was often added as a further 11 states frequently aligned themselves with the 27 Member States. This constituted the combined view of 20% of UN members. Such statements also simplified the EU’s message for third parties. Graham Avery thought that the EEAS had made the EU’s external action more consistent and effective; on Syria, the EUEuropean Union had spoken with one voice and on Burma the collective efforts to improve the situation had been an example of what the EEAS could do. Mats Persson noted that the EUEuropean Union could only act when all 27 members were in agreement, and he believed that the jury was out on the value which the EEAS added.
105. Dr Bicchi thought that the EEAS had strengthened the framework which gave Member States the opportunity to take into account each other’s national positions while formulating their own. David Spence told us that one of the advantages with the EEAS was that mechanisms had been set up to ensure that officials negotiating with third countries on behalf of Member States were well informed about the full range of policies with proper briefing.
106. In written evidence, the European Peace building Liaison Office (EPLO) suggested that EUEuropean Union Member States needed encouragement to support joint EUEuropean Union action, which could include providing them with “timely and high quality strategy and policy ideas,” and “relevant analysis and strategy development which takes into account contemporary thinking … ” We note that the Future of Europe Group report, published in September2012, recommended improvements in the way the FAC works and suggested that there should be more frequent meetings in the Gymnich format and better interaction with the European Council, with one meeting a year focussing on external relations policy with the participation of foreign affairs ministers. They also advocated introducing more majority decisions under the CFSP, or at least preventing one Member State from being able to obstruct initiatives, developing the concept of “constructive abstention.”
107. The EEAS can only act under the Common Foreign and Security Policy if the EU’s Member States agree. The Member States are able to find a common position on many subjects, including on difficult issues of sanctions on third countries. However, differing policies, based on different national interests, inevitably persist, including on key issues. The EEAS should make every effort to find and build on common ground to enable Member States to agree united positions. We welcome the fact that the EEAS regularly brings together a further 11 non-Member States as a part of common positions at the United Nations and more broadly. We encourage the EEAS to continue and extend this aspect of its work.
Determining priorities and focus
109. We asked our witnesses how the EEAS established its priorities, given the wide-ranging interests of different Member States. Arnaud Danjean MEP argued that the greatest problem faced by the Member States, as well as for the EEAS, was a lack of clearly identified priorities. “We go from one issue to another. Lady Ashton, more specifically, goes from one point to another, one hotspot to another one, one crisis to another, with no sense of priority.” The consequences could be an impression of confusion, lack of efficiency and of uselessness. The Minister for Europe thought that the EEAS needed to define its key priorities with greater clarity; “focusing on priorities is an important continuing task.” In his view, the EEAS’s role in dealing with strategic global partners had not taken off in the way that the UK and Member States had expected.
110. Professor Whitman thought that the first priority for the EEAS should be the neighbourhood policy, as the neighbourhood “mattered more than anything else”. The second should be the wider neighbourhood, defined as areas such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Caucasus, and the third should be the strategic partnerships where the emphasis should not necessarily be on big political issues, but on sectors such as energy, environment and trade.
111. Other witnesses laid stress on the value which the EEAS added in conveying the EU’s human rights principles and work. Alan Charlton thought this was one of the key elements in the EEAS Delegation’s work in Brasilia (The Future of Europe Group’s report was published on 17 September 2012. It authors were the Foreign Ministers of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain. The Gymnich meetings consist of twice yearly informal meetings of foreign affairs ministers, chaired by the HR/VP. The Minister for Europe told us that human rights had risen on the EU’s agenda in 2012 with the development of a welcome human rights strategy. Women’s rights had been reflected as a priority in the strategy and was in line with Government’s priorities.
112. It is understandably difficult to reconcile the national priorities of 27 equal Member States, and reduce them to manageable proportions. Nonetheless, this should be done by the HR/VP in collaboration with the Member States, and should determine where the EEAS focuses its resources.
113. We consider that the EEAS should focus on areas of greatest security and economic importance to the Member States, and where it can make the most impact, in particular by deploying its civilian or mixed military/civilian missions and employing its new comprehensive approach. This will inevitably mean that there will be more concentration on issues which are geographically closer to the Member States, rather than distant ones. Relations with the emerging powers which have been chosen as the EU’s strategic partners should also be prioritised.
114. The EEAS can and should play a major part in furthering the EU’s human rights principles, which should continue to form part of all the EU’s relationships.
115. We heard suggestions that there were problems with decision-making in Brussels. Elmar Brok MEP believed that the speed of decision-making and the implementation of policy was a weakness, which he attributed to the newness of the system and a lack of political will from Member States, especially on implementation. Arnaud Danjean MEP thought that difficulties in the decision-making process was due to a lack of leadership and reluctance by the HR/VP and the EEAS to put initiatives to Member States because they believed that they would be rebuffed (see also paragraph 18). Delays in implementation stemmed from problems with merging the cultures, information and procedures of staff from different backgrounds (the Commission, the Council and national diplomacies) and insufficient political will. He cited the example of the strategy for the Sahel which “was never really put in place”. Leadership in the EEAS and political will from the capitals were needed. Véronique de Keyser MEP thought that the HR/VP had tried to introduce flexibility in the structure, but it had created greater confusion between the hierarchical structure of the EEAS and the horizontal nature of the Task Forces. Mali had been an example of the problems within the structures which led to delayed reaction times.
116. Dr Djikstra told us that the EEAS should be more decentralised and less hierarchical: there were often four to five people between the HR/VP and the desk officer, which seemed to him to be too many for the foreign policy area, which required rapid response. He also thought that internal EEAS bureaucratic procedures, which had been adopted from the Commission, needed to be relaxed; a change in culture was also needed “in which people take responsibility and initiative, and do not have to discuss everything with everyone.” More broadly, he believed that structural integration of different services (foreign, development and security) should be considered. Nicholas Westcott told us that the EEAS had been putting procedures and processes in place to enable it to work at the speed needed in diplomacy. Within the constraints of the need for agreement by the 27 Member States, procedures were getting faster, information networks were more efficient than previously and staff now knew how to get decisions agreed quickly by the Commissioner and the HR/VP. The EEAS response to the Mali crisis illustrated the ability to move swiftly when required.
117. Despite the progress that has been made in setting up the institutions in the new service, problems remain in the lines of communication. The review should look at whether decision-making within the EEAS could be simplified so that implementation of actions can take place more speedily. The Member States also have a major role to play in this.
118. We explored the question of the relationship between the EEAS and the Commission. This is critical since responsibility for the various strands of the external policy is shared between these two different institutions. In evidence from the EUEuropean Union institutions, we were given the message that the relationship was improving. James Morrison (Chef de Cabinet to the HR/VP) thought it was “beginning to work” following the major change in the systems, though he pointed out that adaptation inevitably took time. He told us that the HR/VP held regular meetings with the commissioners dealing with external relations issues. The Commissioners with responsibility for the Neighbourhood and for Development did not have their own service to handle external relations issues, but used the EEAS and its desk officers. The coordination was in-built, which accorded with the principle that there should be no duplication of geographical desks between the EEAS and the Commission. Nicholas Westcott said that any remaining “chalk-line disputes” were being resolved. Pedro Serrano recounted that, as Deputy Head of the Cabinet of Javier Solana, he had experienced difficulties coordinating development work with the Commission. This had now changed and, during his time as Head of the EEAS Delegation in New York, he had felt that “we were all really in the same boat.” The EEAS was well-connected to the Commission system; most of the President’s actions which were related to foreign relations were prepared with the assistance of the EEAS and the briefings were often shared with the President of the Commission. He thought that the continuity and coherence created by the changes brought about by the Lisbon Treaty had increased effectiveness and efficiency.
119. A number of witnesses, however, spoke of remaining difficulties in the relationship. Professor Whitman considered that there were problems of overlap between the Commission and the EEAS and in the reporting lines within the EEAS. Edward Burke thought that the collegiate nature of the Commission could create delays and problems for the EEAS, while Commission officials suspected that the EEAS, and the potentially powerful role of the HR/VP, were undermining the community method and they were fighting back against the Lisbon Treaty, consequently undermining the EU’s external policy work. Professor Blockmans told us that the “RELEX group” of commissioners in charge of various aspects of external work had previously met every month but, more recently, had met only a “handful of times.” He thought the HR/VP should chair monthly meetings of the group.
120. The Minister for Europe told us that there was “a degree of institutional tension and turf warfare … ” at the level of High Representative and individual commissioners. Difficulties in the EEAS/Commission relationship also had cost implications; Heads of Delegation, who had primary responsibility for financial reporting, were only allowed to delegate budgetary tasks to others if they were not from the Commission. It was “lunatic” that a second officer had to be appointed to meet the financial reporting requirements because the other staff members in the delegations were all Commission employees. He hoped that a culture would be developed to overcome tensions in relations with the Commission. The Minister added that there was still work to be done on relations with the EU’s strategic partners, such as China, India, Brazil, and the United States, where the challenge was to achieve the right working culture and relationship between the EEAS and the Commission. More needed to be done to draw on all the instruments available to the EUEuropean Union and to coordinate action in the development and trade areas.
121. Our evidence suggested that, despite progress in coordination, there were still “turf wars” between the EEAS and the Commission in handling external relations in Brussels and in the delegations. It is simply not acceptable that already complex bureaucratic procedures result in a loss of efficiency and effectiveness for the EEAS. This problem must be overcome, and an excellent opportunity to do so will arise when the new Commission and the new High Representative/Vice-President take up their appointments in 2014. Solutions include ensuring that policy coordination meetings of external commissioners, in particular the Commissioners for development, neighbourhood policy and enlargement, and the HR/VP take place regularly during the year. As we have advocated above, the EEAS should work towards unified reporting structures, both in terms of personnel and finance, and the withdrawal of EEAS staff where the mission is purely technical.
122. We examined how trade work was handled in the EEAS, given that it is a Commission competence and that the Commission has primacy on trade. Prior to the Lisbon Treaty, the trade and development representations and offices constituted the EUEuropean Union presence around the world. Following the Lisbon Treaty and the establishment of the EEAS, the role of the EEAS is to support the HR/VP in her responsibilities for ensuring the coherence of the EU’s external policies, including trade, while she is assisted directly on trade matters by the Commission.
123. We experienced difficulty in finding witnesses who were willing to comment on the EEAS’s role in trade matters, but were able to speak by videoconference to Arancha Gonzalez (World Trade Organisation (WTO) Chief of Staff, Director General’s Office in Geneva) to ask about her experience of dealing with the EUEuropean Union since the creation of the EEAS. She told us that the impact of the EEAS on the WTOWorld Trade Organization “is not perceptible to us, observing the EUEuropean Union as an actor on trade.” The nameplates had changed, as had the names on the business cards, but the EUEuropean Union Commission still represented the interests of the EUEuropean Union Member States in Geneva, and the interests of the EUEuropean Union had not fundamentally changed. For the WTO, it was critical that a qualified majority of Member States should support the position the Commission would like to take, whoever spoke for the EU. Ms Gonzalez speculated that the presence of the EEAS might have the positive effect of bringing a geostrategic or geopolitical angle to trade discussions in meetings over which the Commission presided, especially in discussions about the accession to the WTOWorld Trade Organization of countries in unstable parts of the world. The EEAS might also bring greater coherence to the discussions on trade policy. She thought that the EEAS served a purpose in Geneva and in all countries where the EUEuropean Union was represented; it had “a huge advocacy role on trade,” and therefore added value.
124. In Brasilia, Alan Charlton told us that trade work was still largely run by the Commission and the establishment of the EEAS Delegation had not made a great difference so far, though it was work in progress. As far as the UK was concerned, the Commission could add value to the Embassy’s work if there was, for example, a market access problem where its expertise was useful. The Presidents of the European Council and the Commission visited Brazil for EUEuropean Union business meetings, accompanied by groups of business people, and discussed issues which could improve trade, but they did not provide services to individual companies in a way that the UK would. He thought that the EEAS ambassador did have a role in promoting “a bit more coherence”; the UK was looking for the EEAS to develop more coherence in the programmes that it ran with the Commission, to ensure that EEAS work successfully complemented that of the Commission. He did not see the role of the EEAS as becoming involved in trade promotion per se, as Member States did.
125. Richard Corbett (Cabinet of the President of the European Council, in charge of Inter-Institutional Affairs) told us that trade and development were now conducted in a context that had a greater regard for foreign policy objectives. A contrary view was, however, provided by the EPLO, which argued that the Trade Directorate General “operates largely independent of the rest of EUEuropean Union external action and is hesitant to serve wider EUEuropean Union objectives.”This was despite the EU’s role as the largest regional trading block with considerable leverage which it could use to support the EU’s foreign policy objectives. Trade could undermine other policy objectives and should, therefore, be subject to assessment by the relevant EEAS services.
126. Edward Burke stressed that the role of the EEAS in the EU’s trade activity was to contribute a political context, as an understanding of the domestic politics of a country was necessary to implement an effective trade policy. Mats Persson believed that trade matters in the EUEuropean Union were already heavily politicised, and should not be politicised further. He saw no real difference in the EU’s trade work since the formation of the EEAS.
127. It is important to distinguish between trade promotion and trade policy. It is clear that the main forum for promoting the trade of individual companies will remain national missions and embassies.
128. Trade policy is a competence of the European Union, on which the Commission leads. Our evidence indicates that, thus far, the EEAS has had no significant effect on the way in which the EUEuropean Union handles trade policy. We consider that, while duplication should be avoided, the EEAS could play a useful role in providing a diplomatic perspective on trade policy, and the EEAS delegations should be proficient at providing a strong local political context for trade negotiations. The review should consider how to ensure that the EEAS starts to play this constructive role in assisting trade policy.
129. We sought evidence from a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on the ground delivering the EU’s development programmes, but had limited success, which was disappointing, and we are therefore particularly grateful to those NGOs who did contribute. We heard divergent views from NGOs and the Government about whether the EU’s development work had become more effective and coherent following the creation of the EEAS. Nicholas Westcott told us that the EEAS had enhanced the EU’s ability to deliver development programmes effectively as it was now more closely linked to the EU’s political contacts. Planning the spend for the 11th Development Fund was done jointly by the EEAS and the Development Commissioner and his team, which ensured strategic coherence, though the process had taken a while to get right. Gary Quince said that, on areas which only concerned development cooperation, the reporting channels were from the delegations to the Commission.
130. In London, the Department for International Development (DfID) thought that the formation of the EEAS had created greater opportunities for coherence in development policy and aid but, by adding another actor in the field, it had also introduced a challenge. The DfID believed that, as structures had settled down, areas of ambiguity had been resolved. They told us that a dedicated unit, the Development Cooperation Coordination, had been formed within the EEAS to coordinate work with the EU’s Development Directorate General (DEVCO) and ensure that links were made across the range of thematic issues. It was fully operational and had improved channels of communication. DfID officials were in regular contact with this unit.
131. The DfID cited an example of improved coherence; the Commission and EEAS had used joint negotiating teams in proposing the new External Financial Instruments for 2014–2020, to produce a coherent position across development policy, foreign policy and the implementation of financial assistance during negotiations. Alan Charlton told us that the EUEuropean Union had earmarked €61 million for development aid to Brazil in a multi-year programme, which predated the establishment of the EEAS. In his view, the involvement of the EEAS had not made a great deal of difference. The Minister for Europe thought that the question of conditionality had not been taken forward with sufficient rigour or energy. Mats Persson believed that, in the past, EUEuropean Union aid had been politicised, largely deliberately, and linked to different objectives. It was too early to tell whether the EEAS had had an effect on the EU’s development policy, including on conditionality.
132. The NGOs were considerably more critical. Paul Asquith (Africa Foundation for Development (AFFORD)) told us he had been struck by the paucity of information on the subjects we wished to investigate. The question of budget responsibility in-country was opaque, as were the structures or opportunities for NGOs to feed into the EEAS policy formulation process. There was a lack of clear, accurate and reliable information about what programmes were being funded and about lines of responsibility, specifically in relation to the impact of the EEAS or NGOs on the ground. He also expressed concern about the lack of expertise and capacity in delegations in certain African states, although the feedback he had received from AFFORD’s European partner had been limited. He thought that the EU’s development policy was incoherent and that there were “turf wars” between the EEAS diplomats and the civil servants at the Commission.
133. Paul Asquith told us that African countries were now less interested in deals with the European Union and preferred projects which were more regionally based, and aid which was not linked to the kind of conditionality the EUEuropean Union imposed. He recommended that the EUEuropean Union should move its development effort away from aid to trade to suit the new situation. Developing countries also looked increasingly towards China and the BRICS. He thought that the EEAS should also play a pivotal role in developing the replacement for the Millennium Development Goals and it potentially had a role in Policy Coherence for Development (PCD).
134. The development NGO, Bond, and Paul Asquith, considered that the EEAS had focused on other areas, such as security and anti-terrorism and trade, to the detriment of long-term development. Bond also thought that, on development policy, the EEAS had been detrimental to poverty reduction objectives. The formation of the EEAS had in practice diluted the commitment to development and to the best interests of partner countries. They perceived a growing gap between the realities of development and poverty in the field and decisions taken in Brussels, with competition between the EEAS and the Commission. Bond believed that the EEAS had done little to prioritise PCD in its programmes. The European Centre for Development Policy and Management (ECDPM) also thought that PCD had not been a priority for the EEAS, but more of a long-term ambition for EUEuropean Union external action. Their research had shown that EEAS staff considered PCD to be the responsibility of the Commission. In their view, the HR/VP and EEAS had not shown leadership or organisational commitment to the issue.
135. Hugo Shorter told us that the complexity of the inter-related Commission/EEAS roles had surfaced in development working groups, which had caused delays in reaching agreement, though this had not had a serious impact on implementation. Anti Slavery International (ASI) also thought that coordination and decision-making in Brussels had not improved, nor had the creation of the EEAS led to a more politically informed development policy linking the Human Rights Strategic Framework to geographical policy. However, they considered that the Delegations had delivered better “coordination in country,” with useful statements, and the EEAS had drafted human rights strategies and involved Member States. ASI’s experience when working in Uzbekistan had been that engaging with the EEAS was “frustrating, resulting in negligible impact on the delivery of development assistance.”
136. The Commission should continue to lead on development, which is where development expertise lies within the EU. However, the review should consider in detail how the EEAS can better contribute to the development of policy and ensure that all programmes are set in apolitical context.
137. In disbursing aid, the EEAS needs to focus on enforcing mutual accountability, which should continue to be an important part of the EU’s message in its aid work. A special remit could be given to the Court of Auditors to ensure that these conditions are effective.
138. We were concerned by the difficulty in obtaining evidence from development non-governmental organisations on how the EU’s development work has changed since the establishment of the EEAS. We conclude that the EEAS is either difficult to access or believed to be irrelevant. The review should consider whether these views are justified, and in what ways the EEAS could improve its relationships with these stakeholders.
139. There may be a number of instances where EEAS offices deal only with the operational aspects of implementing EUEuropean Union development policy. In these cases we believe that the EUEuropean Union should consider withdrawing EEAS status and staff and leave the offices under the control of the Commission.
140. We agree that EU’s humanitarian (ECHO) aid offices should remain independent of the EEAS.
141. The EEAS has answered the need to strengthen its crisis response capacity by creating a new position of Managing Director with overall responsibility for the area. A Crisis Management Board has also been formed to coordinate the different EUEuropean Union actors involved in responding to crises, and the EEAS holds regular meetings of the Crisis Platform to respond to crisis situations in third countries. These involve expertise across the EEAS and the Commission. Pierre Vimont said that the Crisis Platform Group had been used to form the EU’s mission in Mali; the new system had enabled the EUEuropean Union to bring together in the Group all those involved, from the military staff, including the Chair of the Military Committee, the different units in the field, the Crisis Management Planning Department (CMPD), the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC) and the Africa Director, with a contribution from the EEAS Delegation in the capital, Bamako, the Commission’s humanitarian and development assistance and those involved in counterterrorism work. He hoped that efficiency would improve.
142. Gary Quince told us that the creation of the EEAS and the comprehensive approach had improved the EU’s crisis-management capabilities in the areas with which he dealt—in addition to the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, his Delegation had brought a range of policy and financial instruments to bear on crises in Guinea-Bissau, the Congo, eastern Congo and the Central African Republic, using political, development, humanitarian, military and security responses. The Minister for Europe also thought that “the greatest success has been over conflict prevention and crisis management … If the comprehensive approach to crisis management can become fully embedded in the way that the EUEuropean Union works, we will have a swifter, smoother and better quality EUEuropean Union response to such crises.”
143. Professor Whitman, however, was critical of the crisis-management system. He believed that this was one of the issues that needed to be addressed in the review. The system of Brussels-based institutions was too complicated, and the EUEuropean Union needed to prioritise the areas where it should be investing resources in time, energy and effort and, in the longer term, in conflict mediation and mitigation work, as it could not “do global.” The review was an opportunity for the UK Government to state unambiguously what the tasks of the Service should be. Edward Burke also saw problems with the EU’s crisis management, despite good work by the HR/VP in recognising that better integration of the relevant tools was needed. She had done well in establishing a new Crisis Management Board and in introducing the concept of a crisis platform to respond to specific conflicts or natural disasters, but he thought that the EU’s ability to respond rapidly to crises should be looked at in the review.
144. The EPLO believed that the EEAS had improved the EU’s conflict prevention and peace-building capacity, but the policy approach and coordination needed improvement in order to tackle the “entire conflict cycle,” including the root causes of conflict, which was an area where the EEAS had a comparative advantage over the Member States. The EEAS was best placed to revive and update the EU’s crisis management functions and should do so, with the close and informed involvement of Member States. Bond thought that the EU’s policies on crisis response had been positive as they demonstrated an intentionto tackle drivers of conflicts “upstream,” but the practical implementing processes needed to be put in place. The GGI told us that, in their view, the crisis management systems were still not fully integrated and clarification was needed on responsibilities and the chains of command.
145. Evidence from our witnesses suggested that crisis management was an area that had as yet been given insufficient attention by the EEAS, although it is a core activity with potential for much added value. This is despite the fact that new structures have been created which are intended to streamline the EU’s ability to manage crises. As this is a vital and growing area of EUEuropean Union external activity, the review should ensure that the different parts of its crisis-management structure are well integrated and work smoothly.