By CHRIS GRAEME
A new EU foreign affairs and diplomatic body, the European External Action Service (EEAS) will offer Europe the chance to develop a united, unique and genuine foreign policy, British Foreign Minister David Miliband said in Lisbon last Friday.
Speaking at the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he said: “There is a responsibility on all of us in the EU to make the most of the Lisbon Treaty as the tool with which EU states can develop a stronger collective voice and influence on the international stage.”
Both the Portuguese Foreign Minister, Luís Amado, and David Miliband played down fears expressed by the Director General of the EU Commission’s External Relations Department, João Vale de Almeida, that the framework for the new institution could prove contentious and encounter difficulties.
Luís Amado said it was still “too early” to define each nation’s goals publicly during a transitional process still in its infancy but said that problems and difficulties, “which had always existed”, between new institutions and the European Council and European Commission, should not be “over dramatised”.
He was partly referring to internal cultural problems over the new EEAS after David Miliband and Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt published an open letter expressing concern about “some of the inter-institutional struggles evident during negotiations” on the new body.
The blueprint for the EEAS, one of the most important innovations of the Lisbon Treaty, which will come into being in April, is fronted by Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs.
The EEAS, basically an EU diplomatic and foreign ministry, will have 5,000 officials who will have the difficult challenge of coordinating a consensus on a pan European Union foreign policy on a range of international issues linked to the Middle East, Africa, the United States, China, Russia, India, South Africa and Brazil.
David Miliband said that the EEAS needed to be an “integrated service that serves the policies set out by the 27 nation states”.
The EU nations could not allow “a vacuum” to develop since it was vital that the EEAS had a “very clear mandate” for Europe representing all of the opinions of the 27 member states.
On Portuguese-British bi-lateral relations, Luís Amado said they had not “always gone at a pace that an Old Alliance as ours should justify” but said that both countries had a “convergence of opinions on central questions of EU politics” and agreed that the EU should have a more active role in international politics.
This included the renewal and updating of the transatlantic alliance, nuclear concerns over Iran, problems in Africa and issues in relation to the Islamic and Arab world.
David Miliband also said that “our neighbourhood in the south and east, areas of conflict notably in South East Asia as well as the emerging economic superpowers such as China and India had been on the agenda and said the EU needed to “engage with regional organisations around the world”.
“We both argue that under the Lisbon Treaty, foreign policy must be an area where all 27 nations, which have a responsibility to move things forward, have an equal say. We have to make sure we give the EEAS the right mandate and priorities to do its job properly,” he stressed.
“If the multi-polar world is to be governed, we must make sure that the foreign policy of each country is properly magnified through the work of an outward looking EU on economic, commercial, diplomatic, political and cultural issues including climate change as well as building bridges with Muslim majority countries around the world,” he added.
Special priority was to be given to the Ukraine in the near future, while fears over Turkey’s accession to the EU were played down providing she met all the requirements for membership.
Nuclear non-proliferation would continue to be a lynch pin of EU and transatlantic foreign policy, with David Miliband warning that Iran posed a “danger not just to the stability of the Middle East but to the whole nuclear non-proliferation treaty”.
The European Union also had a duty to fighting protectionism being the largest economic bloc in the world. It was a force for liberalisation and open trade with common values and objectives and could be a major driving force in issues such as low carbon energy innovation in the world.