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This story about Catherine Ashton’s proposals for the new European External Action Service was published by EurActiv on 22nd March 2010.

The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, will unveil her long-awaited proposal for setting up the European External Action Service during the course of the week.

With the clock ticking ahead of a self-imposed, almost impossible to achieve 30 April deadline (see ‘Background’), Ashton is preparing to officially present her proposal at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday (22 March).

According to diplomats, Ashton has kept her proposal for the EU’s first-ever diplomatic service rather short and general in order to steer clear of controversy, with details to be decided later.

EU ministers are expected to debate the EEAS preparations at a combined meeting of the General Affairs Council (GAC), responsible for institutional issues among other things, and the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), which deals with the entirety of the EU’s external action.

Diplomats said there was “such excitement” about deciding where the EEAS should be discussed, with some countries “obsessed” with the GAC format and others preferring the FAC alternative. In the end, it was decided that both formats would be merged for the occasion. As a rule, the High Representative chairs FAC meetings.

Diplomats in Brussels and European capitals are struggling to shape the organisational chart of the new service, which to a great extent will reveal the chain of command within the powerful administration in-waiting. In particular, it will give a clearer idea of the position of the existing Council and Commission services in the new design.

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