A major change

European External Action Service by the end of the year

When it comes to foreign relations, national States defend their sovereignty with particular jealousy and determination. Evidently what counts in this sector is the affirmation of the identity of a national State, namely, to distinguish oneself from the other players on the international plane. This explains the reason why the development of European foreign policy is an ongoing process, which is hard to establish. Moreover, this is precisely when common action should be promoted, since in a globalized world EU Member States cannot do much on their own. A major shift is now coming into view. In the summer months the Council of Ministers, the Commission and the European Parliament, thanks to negotiations between these institutions, decided that the European External Action Service will become operative by the end of the year. This service, through which the European Union establishes its own independent diplomacy, will operate under the guidance and the responsibility of Catherine Asthon, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security and vice – president of the European Commission. The body will be represented by European Council and Commission delegates and by Member States’ foreign attachés. In this way, it will draw from the experiences and knowledge of national States’ traditional diplomacy, and from the experience and knowledge of common policies promoted by the Commission in given sectors (foreign trade, development, neighborhood policies, etc). This set of tools, which provide for diplomatic seats across the world, will first have to enable foreign policy consensus to rid itself of the unsatisfying, burdensome and ineffective situation of negotiations between Member States; the creation of consensus will need to become an organic process to be fulfilled within a community institution. This will lead to a joint analysis of the situation. Thus creating the conditions for the development of policies based on the Union’s perspective. Indeed, the adoption of coherent political strategy depends on an analysis marked by mutual agreement. In the traditional cooperation among foreign affairs departments, the common view on a given situation is the object of negotiations, marked by various national approaches. An analysis based on a “fusion” guided by the Union’s interest cannot be born in this way. On the contrary, through the EU diplomatic service it will be possible to develop an analysis of this kind, based upon a “European fusion”. This doesn’t mean that national experiences, evaluations and sensitivity concerning European foreign affairs should no longer play a role. Member States are free to use their diplomatic resources to exert their influence in those areas which they deem most significant. However, this must take place in close cooperation with the EU diplomatic service and under the banner of mutual support. National perspectives must cease being critical to the progress of EU foreign policy. Instead, Community perspectives and the EU’s interests must play a determining role, since they represent more than the aggregate of national interests. The structures and procedures that will need to be developed with the new diplomatic service are thus substantially different from the previous attempts to conceive and guide the EU’s common foreign policy. In the case of European political cooperation, practiced since the 1970s, and in the foreign and common policies developed in the 1990s it was a question of consultative processes which only in exceptional cases led to common action and projects, mostly aimed at curbing the crisis. These processes could not ensure long-lasting foreign and security policy that was at the same time coherent and strategically grounded. In this way, the European Union finally has the possibility of affirming its identity also in this important sector. The significance of this perspective for the further development of the unification process must not be underestimated. Since along with the common currency, it is especially its foreign policy which enables the identification of a common institution as an autonomous body in the realm of international relations and contemporary global reality for today and for the future, establishing the conditions for an assumption of responsibility for itself and towards the rest of the world.

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