Magazine article The Spectator

The EU's New Army of Diplomats

Magazine article The Spectator

The EU's New Army of Diplomats

Article excerpt

The Prime Minister recently professed himself shocked at waste in the European Union. In particular, he was incensed by an EU-funded colouring book portraying the daily lives of 'Mr and Mrs MEP'. It is appalling, certainly, but far from unusual. The propaganda that comes out of Brussels has long been full of such idiocies.

Some may remember Captain Euro, a cartoon superhero who won sporting events for the honour of the single currency. But if the Prime Minister was looking for truly conspicuous examples of waste, he might turn his attention to the EU's diplomatic service.

The European External Action Service was an important institutional innovation brought about by the Lisbon Treaty and - for passionate Europeans - a crucial stepping stone towards the creation of a common EU foreign policy. Article 27 of the Treaty of European Union states that the EEAS is 'to assist the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs' (now Cathy Ashton) 'in conducting the Union's common Foreign and Security Policy'. This is in spite of other provisions in the treaty that state that foreign policy is still the prerogative of member states.

At the time of Lisbon, no one was quite sure how things would develop. Presumably 'a common foreign policy' would evolve over time on a voluntary basis. But in the two years since the EEAS was launched, it has sprung into life with astonishing speed. The EU has developed an extensive (but little-known) worldwide network of embassies, each Head of Delegation accorded full ambassadorial status and the staff full diplomatic privileges and immunities. There are EU embassies in 140 different countries, all generously staffed; in Mozambique there are 32 personnel, Uruguay 30 and Papua New Guinea 37.

Warm islands with agreeable beaches are not neglected by Brussels. Its delegation in Barbados has 44 staff members. The EU is represented in 11 Pacific Island countries, four overseas territories by the delegation in Fiji. The delegation is credited to Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Marshall Islands, Tonga, French Polynesia, Pitcairn and several other territories. There is also a separate delegation in Papua New Guinea with two sub-offices in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. It all adds up to a foreign service 3,400 strong - more than 1,400 staff in Brussels and more than 1,900 abroad: a remarkable number of people doing political work of an elusive kind. The EU has a large aid budget and Commission staff (another 3,400 in the delegations) involved in administering aid programmes, making a staggering total in the delegations of over 5,400.

In addition to 140 ambassadors, there are a dozen 'Special Representatives' to deal with some of the world's more difficult hotspots.

There are EU Special Representatives for the Middle East peace process, the African Union, the South Caucasus, the Horn of Africa, Sudan, Kosovo, Central Asia, Afghanistan and a new Special Representative, inevitably, for Human Rights and Climate Change. Several of these SRs are paid more than the Secretary General of the United Nations.

A Foreign Office minister, when looking at the salaries, thought them surprisingly modest until it was pointed out that he had been given the monthly figures. …

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