The Benelux strikes back against Blair
EU ambassadors met today in Brussels to begin working on the details of how to implement the Lisbon treaty. Following Ireland’s resounding yes vote it seems almost everyone in Brussels thinks even that most immovable of objects, Czech president Vaclav Klaus, can’t stop the eventual ratification of the treaty.
The most thorny issue that ambassadors are discussing is the exact role and responsibilities of the new post of president of the European Council. In my last post I mentioned the high profile candidacy of former British prime minister Tony Blair and how it could face stiff resistance from small member states.
Well, today I got a look at a paper circulated to member states by the Benelux countries, which surprise, surprise, calls for a restricted role for the new Council president. As one source explained the paper to me “this new position is not a president of Europe job, it is a president of the council”.
Small states cannot stop the Blair bandwagon alonebut with a decision on the Council president probably not due until the December summit (due to the constitutional court delay in the
Czech Republic) there is plenty of time for a “stop Blair” campaign to get rolling. Here is the full text of the
BENELUX document Implementation of the Treaty of
The Treaty of Lisbon will make the European Union (EU) more effective, more democratic and more transparent. It will endow the EU with a single institutional framework, which provides for the creation of a permanent President of the European Council, a High Representative (HR) who will preside over the Foreign Affairs Council and be Vice-President of the European Commission, and of a European External Action Service (EEAS).
Anticipating the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, we will have to adapt the rules governing the functioning of the new legal framework with a view to ensuring that it functions well. These new rules will be reflected in the Rules of Procedure of the European Council, the amended Rules of Procedure of the Council. In addition, the decision establishing the EEAS should be prepared.
In the view of the BENELUX countries, it is more necessary than ever to ensure, once the Treaty of Lisbon has entered into force, the inclusive, orderly and transparent nature of the decision-making process, and to guarantee the maintenance of the Community method and the institutional balance of the Union that have been the basis of the success of European integration.
To this end, the BENELUX countries believe that the implementation of the new measures should be based on the principles set out below.
1. The European Council and its President
The European Council shall provide the impetus for the
Union’s development and shall define general political directions and priorities, whose transposition into legislation takes place in the Council. Despite the fact that the Treaty of Lisbon endows the European Council with the status of an institution, the legislative power remains the prerogative of the Council and the European Parliament (EP). Nor does this institutionalisation affect the Council’s capacity to take decisions on non-legislative questions.
Internal role The Rules of Procedure of the European Council will determine how its agenda is set and how its Conclusions are adopted.
The European Council meetings will continue to be prepared by the General Affairs Council and the other Council configurations through the usual preparatory bodies, so as to ensure a transparent and inclusive preparation of EU policies. The rotating six-month presidency will thus play a primary role in helping to ensure the coherence of the Union’s policies.
To this end:· The rotating presidency will report at the opening of each European Council on the preparatory activities that have taken place in the different Council formations. · After consultations with the President of the Commission, with the head of state or government of the rotating presidency, and with the High Representative, the President of the European Council will draw up a draft annotated agenda. · After consultations with the President of the Commission, with the head of state or government of the rotating presidency, and with the High Representative, the President of the European Council will draw up draft Conclusions and, as necessary, draft decisions of the European Council. · The meetings of the European Council will continue to be prepared by the General Affairs Council; the annotated agenda, the draft Conclusions and, as necessary, decisions of the European Council will thus be submitted to the General Affairs Council (see below).· If prevented from being present, the President of the European Council will be replaced by the head of state or government of the rotating presidency. · The President of the European Council will be consulted by the three member states that hold the presidency during this period in drafting the Council’s 18-month programme. · Regular meetings will take place between the President of the European Council, the President of the Commission and the head of state or government of the rotating presidency, or their representatives, so as to ensure the proper preparation of decisions and the continuity of the
The President of the European Council will also play a role in representing the Union abroad. He will represent the Union at the level and in the capacity that correspond to his position, without prejudice to the prerogatives of the High Representative, who will be responsible for ensuring the coherence of the Union’s external action in matters falling under the CFSP, and during bilateral and multilateral summits with third countries (accompanied by the President of the Commission in matters concerning the Commission). In representing the Union, the President of the European Council will put forward the priorities and general political directions adopted by the European Council and the decisions adopted to attain those objectives or implement those orientations.
The person – The President of the European Council must have the stature of a head of state or government. He must be someone who has demonstrated his commitment to the European project and has developed a global vision of the
Union’s policies, who listens to the member states and the institutions, and who is sensitive to the institutional balance that corresponds to the Community method.
2. The General Affairs Council
The current General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be divided into two Council configurations: the General Affairs Council (GAC) and the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC).
The GAC’s task is laid out in the Treaty: it ensures consistency in the work of the different Council configurations and prepares and ensures the follow-up to meetings of the European Council, in liaison with the President of the European Council and the President of the Commission.
To this end:
- It is responsible for the overall coordination policies; for institutional matters in a broad sense (i.e. including any questions that arise concerning subsidiarity, Better Regulation, relations with other institutions, etc.); for the financial perspectives; for multilateral trade policies (for instance, the WTO); for enlargement (although certain decisions can be dealt with in the Foreign Affairs Council – see below); and for all horizontal dossiers.
- It shall draw up the annotated agenda of the European Council on the basis of a proposal submitted to it by the President of the European Council, after consultation with the President of the Commission, with the head of state or government of the rotating presidency, and with the High Representative (see above).
- It examines draft Conclusions and other draft decisions of the European Council.
- The Council’s 18-month work programme is submitted to it for approval.
Presence at/representation on the GAC Each member state designates its own representative on the GAC. Preferably the representative will be someone whose position in its government will enable him/her to fulfil the policy coordination task of GAC.
3. The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR)
The FAC shall elaborate the Union’s external action on the basis of strategic guidelines laid down by the European Council and ensure that the Union’s action is consistent. The HR is Vice-President of the Commission and chairs the FAC. He conducts the Union’s common foreign and security policy. Through his proposals he contributes to the development of the CFSP and CSDP (common security and defence policy). He is assisted by the EEAS. In addition, he conducts political dialogue with third countries on the Union’s behalf and puts forward the Union’s positions in international organisations and at international conferences. Nevertheless, to ensure broad support for the CFSP it is important to guarantee the responsibility, involvement and visibility of the member states’ foreign ministers.
So as to guarantee the overall coherence of the Union’s action, the HR is responsible for acting in concert with the Union’s six-month rotating presidency, notably in drafting the FAC’s provisional agenda. It should be recalled in this connection that under article 30 of the Treaty on European Union, any member state may refer to the Council any matter relevant to the CFSP.
The HR may propose to the FAC that it appoints and mandates a special representative.
With regard to the FAC’s agenda:
- The FAC is responsible for the whole of the European Union’s external action namely CFSP/CSDP;
- Trade issues with regard to third countries shall be discussed and decided in the FAC (while trade matters related to the WTO shall be treated the GAC: see above).
- Decisions with important foreign policy implications, for instance the opening or suspension of accession negotiations, can be dealt with in the FAC at the request of a member state.
- The FAC also deals with development cooperation and humanitarian aid.
If the HR is not able to attend the FAC, the FAC will be presided over at the HR’s request by a member of the Council.
The person In addition to presiding over the FAC, the H
R wears two other hats. He is mandated by the Council to carry out the CFSP/CSDP; and as Vice-President of the Commission, he is responsible, within the Commission for external relations and for the coordination of other aspects of the Union’s external action. Finally, he is in charge of the EEAS.
To ensure that the Union speaks with a single voice – through the HR – the HR, the President of the European Commission and the rotating presidency will consult regularly, especially in times of crisis. The HR must therefore have not only vast experience of Community action in the framework of the CFSP/CSDP and of the Union’s external policy, but also consensus-building skills.
4. The European External Action Service (EEAS)
The EEAS should enable the HR to successfully carry out his chief mandates: conducting the CFSP/CSDP, conducting (from his position in the Commission) the Union’s external relations, and ensuring the coherence of the Union’s external action.
To this end, certain services should be transferred from the Council Secretariat and the Commission to the EEAS, and effective coordination mechanisms should be established for those services that remain under the authority of the Commission or Council Secretariat.
Composition and mandate
The EEAS should be established step-by-step. At the same time, its mandate should be clearly defined from the outset and should indicate the final objective to be attained at the end of the transition period, as quickly as possible. It will also be necessary to agree the different steps and the corresponding calendar. It will be up to the HR to present a proposal for this purpose. As part of the HR’s proposal, measures should be outlined from the beginning to foster the unity, coherence and effectiveness of the
With regard to the EU Delegations, we should begin with several pilot projects, for example in Kabul, Addis Ababa and New York, where there are currently two separate Delegations (of the Council and the Commission) existing alongside each other.
The decision establishing the EEAS should also include a rendez-vous clause providing for an evaluation after several years of the EEAS’s functioning. It should be possible to modify the EEAS’s mandate if necessary on the basis of this evaluation.
The EEAS’s mandate should be defined on the basis of the following principles:
- The EEAS’s geographical scope is global. All the country desks of the Council Secretariat and the Commission should be incorporated into the EEAS, which will thus become a decompartmentalised service (no duplication of Council Secretariat and Commission country desks).
- In the interests of the coherence of external policy, some aspects of development cooperation policy – the country desks that currently fall under DG Development – should also be incorporated into the EEAS, as the EEAS provides more opportunities to carry out a better integrated European policy (as in the case of the 3D approach). It should be noted nevertheless that the specific goals of European development cooperation policy, such as the eradication of poverty, have been included in the Treaty, where they are presented as objectives of the
- Finally, a certain number of themes such as civilian missions, human rights and non-proliferation should be part of the mandate of the EEAS.
- It is not expedient to include enlargement (and the programme planning of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA)) in the EEAS’s remit, as accession negotiations are conducted exclusively by the Commission.
- The same applies to trade policy. Cooperation between the EEAS and DG Trade should however be systematised.
With regard to responsibility for Community funds and programmes, a mixed model may be advisable:
- The HR is responsible for planning the financing of the Neighbourhood Programme, the Instrument for Stability, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, and the CFSP budget.
- The Commissioner for Development (and DG Development), working closely with the HR, will be responsible for the European Development Funds and Development Cooperation Instrument. AidCo/EuropeAid and ECHO will be charged with implementation.
- The EEAS will support programme planning by the HR and Commissioner for Development.
Legal status of the EEAS As the HR, and thus the EEAS, will be responsible for budgetary and personnel matters, the EEAS will need a legal status providing it with functional legal personality so that it has sufficient autonomy. This legal personality should also give it the capacity to act as necessary to carry out the tasks included in its mandate. Ideally the EEAS should be financed from the EU budget, within the ceiling set by the financial perspectives for 2007-2013, by means of a separate budget line (under administration, category 5) that underlines the EEAS’s sui generis character in relation to the Commission and the Council. The EEAS should in fact be a sui generis service, linked to both the Council Secretariat and the Commission without falling under either of these institutions.
EEAS staffing As soon as the HR begins work, he should have a support team made up of officials from the Council Secretariat and the Commission as well as a limited number of diplomats of the member states. This team will see to the establishment of the EEAS. A specially designated individual should be in charge of the organisational and financial aspects of the EEAS’s creation.
At the end of the transition period, the EEAS should consist in equivalent parts of officials of the Council Secretariat, officials of the Commission, and staff seconded from the national diplomatic services of the member states.