A Deputy, A Dose of Reorganization and a Schuman Shuffle: How to Make the European External Action Service Work Better

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GR:EEN Policy Brief 10
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Creating an effective, functioning European External Action Service (EEAS) was never going to be simple. The EEAS has offered a seemingly easy target for eurosceptics and journalists who have been  quick  to  point  the  finger  of  blame  at  Catherine  Ashton  for all of the new institution’s woes. Yet, away from the glare of publicity Ashton’s EEAS has been chalking up some quiet successes. Nonetheless, as the EEAS prepares to review progress in the coming months, attention should be focused on streamlining  the  decision-making  processes, ensuring  better  co-ordination  with  other EU  institutions,  and  implementing  new  measures  to  provide  incentives  and  rewards  for  national diplomats  to  work  in  the  EEAS  and  those  in  the  EEAS  to  work  in  their  national  ministries,  what  I call the “Schuman Shuffle”.

The EEAS has only been a functioning entity for just over two years. Too soon in the eyes of some to  embark  on  reviews,  but  there  was  a  clear  logic  to  setting  that  date:  to  have  all  of  the recommended  changes  in  place  by  the  time  the  next  Commission – and  hence  the  next  High Representative/Vice President (HR/VP) - comes into office.

The EEAS’s strengths and weaknesses stem in large part from the fact that it offers a picture of the EU  in  microcosm.  At  the  heart  of  EEAS  is  an attempt  to  capitalize  on  the  pooling  of  sovereignty and  the  benefits  of  coordination,  whilst  recognizing  the  national  interests  of  individual  member states and the need to work closely with other institutions.  The EEAS – and the EU as a whole – is never  going  to  work  perfectly,  but  even  a  few  small  changes  at  this  stage  could  make  a  major difference.