How the EU deals with the World – “External Policies”

07/07/2011 at 10:21 am Leave a comment

Following the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009 the EU institutional landscape has undergone a number of changes, some of which very relevant to those of us interested in global justice and development.

Those changes include:

  • The creation of the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. This new EU foreign policy chief chairs meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council and serves as Vice-President of the Commission. A key element of her work is to ensure coherence between all EU external policies there included development cooperation.
  • The High Representative is supported by the European External Action Service (EEAS), a new EU institution made up of national and EU diplomats and officials from the Commission. The EEAS has responsibility for providing staff for EU Delegations in third countries. The EU Delegations replace the old EC Delegations.

Baroness Catherine Ashton was appointed to the post of High Representative in December 2009 and was tasked with drafting and agreeing a proposal for setting up the new EEAS. This proposal would set out the division of labour between the new EEAS and the European Commission’s institutions dealing with global Development.

The EEAS came into force officially on 1st January 2011. Following a strong lobby by NGOs, and major debates between the European Parliament and the EU member states, the European Commission will now handle the development budget and the Commissioner of Development will be responsible for all levels of the programming cycle of development financing instruments.

At the same time the European Commission has been reviewing its own structures in relation to development and a new Directorate General (DG), DG DevCo, was created on 1 January 2011 by merging DG Development and DG Europe Aid. The new DG comes under the responsibility of the Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs. The organogramme of the new DG was finalised 1st of June 2011.

All this information about institutions, mandates and divisions of labour may not be very exciting, but it is important.

One key message of this blog post is that the EU, by adopting the Lisbon Treaty, gave itself the task of playing a positive role on the global stage, and set itself the goal of ensuring that its “external policies” would help to eradicate extreme poverty. For the EU to be able to do this, it needs the right infrastructure, and it needs to ensure that its (members’) foreign policy interests do not interfere with its own Development and anti-poverty aims.

The other key message is that, thanks to concerted efforts by NGOs and a range of members of the European Parliament (including a good number of Irish MEPs), we now have that infrastructure in place.

Time, therefore, for the EU to show what it will do with its new mandate, institutions and division of labour agreements!

 

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