The European External Action Service: the 29th EU donor?

Development Policy19 Nov 2009Niels Keijzer

While the longest dinner in EU history is soon to start, some of you may like to easy the waiting by taking account of important decisions made by the EU this week on policy coherence and more contours of the ‘job description‘ for the High Representative for foreign and security policy.

Whereas the latter note on the High Representative points out that trade and development policy should remain the responsibility of the respective Commissioners in the European Commission, it also states that the External Action Service (to be headed by the High Representative) should cover all geographical regions. What this means for the geographical desks in the Commmission’s Directorate General for Development is still unclear. While there has been considerable internal discussion and informal notes/commentaries about what happens with development policy in the new setting, this issue hasn’t yet been captured in much detail in any official communications from the EU member states.

What is however clear is that the future EU Delegations (the ‘European Embassies’) will be part of the External Action Service, including the people heading the Delegations. Since the development cooperation interventions by the Commission are also implemented by the Delegations, it is needless to say that the future arrangements could end up being very complicated. This short article in the European Voice explores some of these possible complexities. Tomorrow, or at least very soon, we should know the names of two of the people who will need to take up this challenge.

Epilogue: and now that tomorrow has come, we know that the new President of the EU Council – and not ‘EU President’, as some media put it – is Herman van Rompuy (Belgium, prime-minister), and that the High Representative post will be taken up by Catherine Ashton (UK, Commissioner for Trade).