Correspondent's Choice

This story about the new EU diplomatic service was published by EurActiv on 5th March 2010.

The birth of the European External Action Service, one of the most anticipated innovations of the Lisbon Treaty, will be a difficult one, admitted a top European Commission official yesterday (4 March).

João Vale de Almeida, director-general at the European Commission’s external relations department and future EU ambassador to Washington, spoke of the double challenge of setting up the European External Action Service (EEAS) fast and “right”. He was speaking at a conference organised by 14 European think-tanks, who presented a “contribution to the Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian trio presidency”.

Vale de Almeida is a key player in the 13-member committee led by Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, in charge of producing a proposal for setting up the EEAS.

Based on her suggestions, EU heads of states and government are expected to come to a decision on the EU’s new diplomatic corps by the end of April (see ‘Background’).

“For the Lisbon Treaty, it took us a nine-year pregnancy,” Vale de Almeida said. Comparing this with the short timeframe for adopting the EEAS, he said “birth after three months will be very difficult”.

The top official said it was extremely important to design the EU’s new diplomatic service in “the best possible way” and called on EU member countries to show “political will”.

Implicitly, he appeared to confirm that the blueprint, already drafted by Ashton’s committee, was encountering difficulties in some member countries.

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