Global actor ‘in statu nascendi’? Impact of European External Action Service on Diplomatic Actorness of the European Union



Analiza CIM no. 17/2012

Kwiecień 2012

‘Magnetic force’ (Rosecrane,1998), ‘gentle power’ (Padoa-Schioppa,2001), ‘Normative Power Europe’ (Manners,2002), ‘European superpower’ (McCormick,2007), ‘quiet superpower’ (Moravcsik), ‘Kantian paradise’ (Kagan,2004), ‘post-modern state’ (Cooper,2003), ‘middle power’ (Laatikainen,2006), ‘neo-medieval empire’ (Zielonka,2006), ‘responsible Europe’ (Mayer&Vogt,2006) – these are example names given to EU.[1] Nevertheless, taking into consideration the fact that the Union is far from realization of its whole potential as diplomatic actor, I assume that the most proper one is ‘global actor in statu nascendi’. Fragmentation of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP), complexity of checks-and-balances of 1+27 systems, inter- and intra-institutional competitions effectively prevent quick, flexible and determined EU’s action on the international stage. Reflection Group’s report “Europe 2030” warns that the Union will ‘punch below its weight’ as long as it constitutes a cacophony of 28 voices.[2] The ‘policies’ and acquis alone, a concept ‘everything but decisions’, wishful thinking, or nihil novi sub sole sine communio consensu are not enough anymore. As painfully understood through failure of climate change negotiations in 2009, the Union is on the verge of its diplomatic ineffectiveness. It faces a challenge of proving its capability of integrating different MSs’ perspectives into one common message; the ‘window of opportunity’ was opened with the Treaty of Lisbon (TL).[3]

In my opinion, TL introduces a ‘creeping revolution’. ‘Revolution’, because the novelties in EU’s external relations are unprecedented; ‘creeping’, as it will take decades to uncover their full potential, depending on the political will of MSs, competences of European officials, complicated process of policy- and decision-making and development of international context.

I distinguish the TL record of possessing international legal personality[4] with its result of communitarisation of pillars to be constitutive for new EU’s diplomatic service. Nonetheless, in this part of the essay I point to various treaty limitations.

Firstly, depillarization is tentative. Locating CFSP not within Part V TFEU “External Action”, but within Title V TEU is not without significance. The MSs, although obliged to coordinate their foreign policies through ‘solidarity clause’, have still decisive voice/vote in mostly unanimous issues regarding CFSP, excluding adoption of legislative acts.[5] MSs’ traditional sovereign rights are recalled in Declaration 13 and 14. Citing Wallace, Schoutheete names this kind of open coordinative decision-making the ‘intensive transgovernmentalism’.[6]

Secondly, creation of two new authorities: President of the European Council and ‘double-hat’ High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, simultaneously a Vice-President (HR/VP) of the European Commission (EC), presiding over newly constructed Foreign Affairs Council, leaves a lot to be coherently desired, as their functions are overlapping. The HR/VP shall conduct CFSP and represent EU, while the President shall ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning CFSP, without prejudice to the powers of the HR/VP.[7] The situation additionally complicates the EC which shall ensure the Union’s external representation with the exception of CFSP.[8] HR/VP’s appointment by the Council, with the acceptance of the EC’s President and the European Parliament’s (EP) consent, leads consequently to a choice of person presenting ‘lowest possible denominator’.

Thirdly, in order to facilitate the HR/VP in executing her numerous tasks, the TL introduced EEAS – an embryo of European diplomacy.[9] EEAS’ organization and rules of functioning were left to be established by the Council Decision on 26.07.2010.[10]

In the next part I will present political difficulties in constructing Union’s diplomatic actorness.

Anecdote says that diplomacy can acquire one of three states: solid, liquid or gaseous, with the latter – of unlimited directions of foreseeable developments – characterizing transnational relations of any international organization, also EU’s supranational level.[11] Volatile structure of the European diplomacy leaves space to fill it with political decisions. However, the appointment of H. van Rompuy and C. Ashton – known to narrow circle of co-workers – to posts of President of the Council and HR/VP, and therefore strategists and directors of EU’s foreign policy, raised discussions about ‘new concert of empires’: France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy unwilling to give up their national ambitions in leading the European diplomatic endeavours.[12] The lack of baroness Ashton’s basic knowledge on international politics was highly criticized by the EP.[13] The long list of baroness’ setbacks was filled by media and European leaders in first months of her mandate, pointing at overwhelming ineffectiveness, from Haiti, through Libya, NATO, on EEAS nominations not finishing.[14]

The Service, comprising today 3684 workers, is called by Gräßle ‘a Mexican army’ – lacking operational capabilities, with too many commanders and too few regular servants.[15] Exact data concerning EEAS-personnel will be presented by the HR/VP by the end of 2011; independently carried author’s analysis (numbers present a tendency rather than an accurate state) reveal that:

1) European diplomacy is a field of fierce battles between MSs, with highest representation of France (15%) and Belgium (relatively), and dramatic underrepresentation of ‘new Europe’ (6%);

Table 1. Senior management, nationality.[16]


2) among EU chiefs delegations, 28% are women – below 1/3, decided in the Decision;

Table 2. EU Chiefs delegations, sex.[17]


3) 38% of chiefs is recruited from MSs – a bit above standard set on 1/3.[18]

Table 3. EU Chiefs delegations, professional carrier.[19]



EEAS structure-content leaves a lot to be desired. Moreover, as the Service is comprised of two distinct ‘epistemic communities’: national and supranational-European,[20] the latter being symptom of ‘late sovereignty’,[21] it must not be forgotten that work on esprit de corps or acquis diplomatique is essential, and that is why ‘turning diplomacy inside-out’[22] – Europeanization/socialization of diplomats is needed.[23]

Added value of European diplomacy should result in, firstly, economic-logistics savings of national ministries and, secondly, enhancement of EU’s internal and external global actor’s identity and international presence. But it is difficult to assess EEAS as effective body of sui-generis autonomy if it equals the quarter of personnel hired by an average MS, if there is one servant per more than 134.000 Union’s citizens, and if its financing and costs per capita are 15 times lower than those of MS.[24] Having 13 times number of US embassies and consulates, and nine times bigger local personnel, Europeans spent disproportionately highly to results.

Table 4. Foreign service personnel and expenditures of the MS and EU.


Source: Emerson,op.cit.53.

The biggest threat for EEAS is that it will not be accepted.[25] Firstly, the Service lacks prerogatives. ‘Legitimation durch Erfolg’ is urgently needed, as MSs do not treat Ashton seriously. Secondly, the Service lacks strategy. Between December 2009-May 2011 EEAS published 1770 messages, 80% of which were statements. Tendency is raising, but the quantity does not translate into quality.[26] Finally, the Service lacks common sense. Bellum omnium contra omnes characterizes a state of intra-European relations. Performing HR/VP’s duties does not leave sufficient time-space for strategy.

Authors of “European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2010” observed that whenever MSs were united with Brussels, EU’s successes were significant ( transatlantic relations, multilateralism, crisis management); per analogiam: no agreement resulted in worst outcomes (with China, Turkey).[27] EU must, as “Strategy for EU Foreign Policy” suggests: be simultaneously autonomous and multilateral in its decisions and actions while contributing to global governance; be consistent with its values and priorities (Art.21TEU); be vertically-horizontally and internally-externally coherent, as well as complex and comprehensive, combining multi-level/multi-layer/multi-location structures.[28] Multi-stakeholder[29] diffused and decentralized[30] diplomacy where diplomats are not ‘gate-keepers’, but facilitators and entrepreneurs, not in a hierarchy, but in a social network,[31] becomes a European reality. Therefore EEAS shall focus on five functions: understanding the world, integrating external policies, coordinating both internal and international pressures, representing the Union and managing a network of all 137 delegations.[32] Lloveras-Soler missed crucial meaning of public diplomacy: strengthening EU’s internal and external identity and its promotion in the world. Similar ’10 commandments’ for EEAS presented Emerson, Balfour[33] Nonetheless, it must be bore in mind that the Service cannot mean an end in itself.

If Union’s raison d’être is the global diplomatic actorness, its policy must enforce acceptance of post-globalist approach. There is no vacuum in politics – if it is not EU who channels the world challenges, it will be another competitive actor. Therefore, EEAS is not an ‘another hopeless EU bureaucracy’;[34] it is not a ‘big-bang’, but a beginning of a long process.[35]

Szczerski assumes that communitarisation of foreign policy will happen aside to MSs, through practical channel,[36] while Bátora presumes that either EU becomes a state, or the global system changes allowing non-state entities to act as standard diplomatic actors.[37] EU sets a challenge to both the national systems of its MSs’ domestic diplomacies, and to global structure. With reluctant MSs and EEAS in action, second scenario is more feasible. Union’s diplomacy, overcoming barriers of what classic and post-positivist, deserves a title of post-modern[38] or structural[39] diplomacy, combining conventional foreign policy focused on security with ‘soft power’.[40]

[1] J. Orbie (ed), Europe’s Global Role. External Policies of the EU, University of Ghent, 2008.
[2] EUROPE 2030 – Challenges and Opportunities, Brussels, 2010,pp.35-36.[3] Á.de Vasconcelos, Europe: it’s not over yet, “EUISSus 32”,2010,,(20.05.2011).
[4] Art.47&1.TEU.
[5] Art.24-35TEU,Art.222TFEU.
[6] Ph. de Schoutheete, Decision-making in the Union, “Notre Europe Policy Bief”, no.24, Paris,2011,p.4.
[7] Art.16,18,27TEU.
[8] Art.17TEU.
[9] Art.27.3TEU.
[10] Decision 2010/428/EU, “Official Journal of the EU”, 03.08.2010.
[11] D. O’Sullivan’s speech, 14.01.2011,
[12] Name a famous Belgian, „The Economist”, 19.11.2009.
[13] Europosłowie krytycznie o nowej szefowej unijnej dyplomacji, „EurActiv”, 03.12.2009,, (11.05.2011).
[14] Lady Ashton takes flak in EU diplomatic battle, 03.03.2010,, (22.05.2011).
[15] I. Gräßle, The Creation of the EEAS – A Critical Analysis, Robert Schuman Foundation, 14.02.2011.
[16] Author’s article, Urlop w UE, a praca w ESDZ wre, 08.08.2011, CII,
[17] State on May 2011, author’s Master Thesis, ESDZ jako instrument WPZiB, [EEAS as an instrument of CFSP], Cracow, Jagiellonian University,2011,p.82.
[18] D. Spence pointed to 19% AD posts occupied by MSs, speech at the CoE, 09.11.2011.
[19] Author’s MA,op.cit.82.
[20] D. Spence, Taking Stock: 50 Years of European Diplomacy, “Hague Journal of Diplomacy”, 2009,Vol.4,Issue2,pp.245-251.
[21] R. Adler-Nissen, Late Sovereign Diplomacy, ibidem,p.122.
[22] M. Cross, A European Foreign Service: Turning Diplomacy Inside-Out, “Conference Papers”, International Studies Association, 2010.
[23] H. Brady, N.F. Sola, Building a EEAS: a Difficult Birth?, in E. Fabry, G. Ricard-Nihoul, Think Global – Act European. The Contribution of 14 European Think Tanks…, Notre Europe, Paris, 2010.
[24] M. Emerson, R. Balfour, Upgrading the EU’s Role as Global Actor. Institutions, Law and the Restructuring of European Diplomacy, CEPS,Brussels,2011,pp.141-142.
[25] E. Brok, Prejudices, Challenges and Potential: an Impartial Analysis of the EEAS, Robert Schuman Foundation “Policy Paper”, European issue no.199,21.03.2011.
[26] State on 23.05.2011, own calculations on the basis of the archive
[27] J. Vaïsse, H. Kundnani, European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2010, ECFR, 30.03.2011,pp.10-11.
[28] Á. de Vasconcelos (ed.), A strategy for EU foreign policy, “ISSEU Report”, no.7,Paris,June2007,pp.3-4.
[29] B. Hocking, Multistakeholder Diplomacy: Forms, Functions and Frustrations, in J. Kurbalija, V. Katrandjiev (eds.), Multistakeholder Diplomacy: Challenges and Opportunities, Malta/Geneva, DiploFundation,2006,pp.13-29.; S.B. Rasmussen, The Messages and Practices of the European Union’s Public Diplomacy, “Hague Journal of Diplomacy”, 2010,Vol.5,Issue3,pp.283-284.
[30]Ch. Jönsson, M. Hall, Essence of Diplomacy, chapter7, Houndmills, Palgrave, 2005.
[31] J. Metzl, Netowrk Diplomacy, ”Georgtown Journal of International Affairs”, vol.2,no.1,2001,pp.77-87.
[32] J. M. Lloveras-Soler, The New EU Diplomacy: Learning to Add Value, “EUI Working Papers” RSCAS 2011/05,pp.4-5,10-25.
[33] Emerson,op.cit.59-64.
[34] J. Kirchick, Another Hopeless EU Bureaucracy, “Weekly Standard”, 04.18.2011,Vol.16,Issue30,pp.18-19.
[35] J. Solana in B. Ll, Reivindicación de la politica, Veinte aňos de relaciones internationals, Barcelona,2010,p.147.
[36] K. Szczerski (red.), UE jako aktor stosunków międzynarodowych. Polityczne priorytety i dylematy instytucjonalne, ECR Policy Debates,2010,pp.171-173.
[37] Bátora,op.cit.66.
[38] D. Mahncke, Post-modern Diplomacy: Can EU Foreign Policy Make a Difference in World Politics?, “EU Diplomacy Papers”, CoE,4/2011; J. Bátora, B. Hocking, Introduction: Diplomacy and the EU, “Hague Journal of Diplomacy”, 2009,Vol.4,Issue2,p.114.
[39] S. Keukeleire, R. Thiers, A. Justaert, Reappraising Diplomacy: Structural Diplomacy and the Case of the EU, “Hague Journal of Diplomacy”, 2009,Vol.4,Issue2,pp.143-165.
[40] U. Guérot, After Lisbon: Is Europe becoming a global power?, ECFR, 01.12.2009.

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