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EEAS has made a good start but must work harder to focus on priorities and reduce costs say Lords EU Committee

The House of Lords European Union Sub Committee on External Affairs has today published its report on the European External Action Services and say the Service has made a good start since its formation in 2011 but must now take steps to prioritise its work and deliver budget neutrality.

The report says the EEAS has responded well to early challenges such as the Arab Spring, negotiations with Iran and calming relations between Serbia and Kosovo. It praises the early work done to establish the service and says the EEAS should now swiftly correct the remaining organisational problems and focus on delivering results.

The Committee say that the aim of budget neutrality has not been achieved.  It recommends that there should be zero real terms growth in the EEAS budget while EU Member States have to continue to stick to budgetary restraints. The Committee recommend a number of steps to help the EEAS achieve budgetary neutrality. These include:

  • Salaries of EEAS staff should be comparable with those of diplomatic staff in larger Member States and should not be higher, as some evidence to the Committee suggested they are at present.
    EEAS delegations should be subject to rigorous review and where they do not contribute to the EU's overall priorities they should be closed.
  • Where an EEAS delegation's focus in a country is solely on trade and development it should be closed. 
  • In countries where there are two EEAS delegations they should be amalgamated as soon as possible.
  • National parliaments should be given a greater role in scrutinising EEAS spending by requiring the High Representative to submit annual reports to national parliaments as well as the European Parliament, while the level of parliamentary scrutiny by the European Parliament should remain at the same level, as foreign policy is primarily inter-governmental.

The Committee also call for Member States to be clearer in what the EEAS to do. They say that the review in mid 2013 by Baroness Ashton, the High Representative/Vice President of the Commission, should help the service to add value to the effectiveness of EU external policies.

Commenting Lord Teverson Chairman of the Lords EU Sub-Committee on External Affairs, said:

“The European External Action Service has made a good start since its creation in 2011. It was thrust in at the deep end and had to deal with the Arab Spring, difficult negotiations with Iran and calming relations between Serbia and Kosovo and it has responded well to the challenges. 

“However we are concerned that the EEAS has not yet dealt with all the challenges it faced in its first two years, including meeting the aim of budget neutrality. We heard evidence that salaries of senior officials in the service were over generous and we propose that salaries should be comparable to that of diplomatic staff in larger Member States. We also recommend that the High Representative's review of the EEAS should look at all the current delegations to ensure they are contributing to the EU's overall external policies. Any that are found not to be should be considered for closure. The EEAS now needs to focus on adding value to the EU's external action.

”Our aim has been to contribute our recommendations to the High Representative's review, and to feed them into the discussions leading up to the review, including at the informal meeting of the EU's foreign ministers on 22 – 23 March.”

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