Who will implement the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy?

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      In the first of a series of three blog posts ahead of the publication of the implementation plan of the EU’s Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy, ECDPM’s Damien Helly argues that the EU has far too many diplomats doing the same things and that their human resources could, and should, be managed in a much more rational way. The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Commission Vice President, Federica Mogherini, will soon publish the implementation plan for the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy that was issued last June. The EU Global Strategy has offered a vision for the future role of the EU in the global arena. It is ambitious, internationally-oriented, and it covers all dimensions of EU external action. Everybody recognises that member states alone are not equipped to deal with globalisation and with global threats and that they must also grasp peace and prosperity opportunities. It will be for the EU institutions and EU members states to ensure effective implementation of the Global Strategy.

      The EU has a large regiment of national diplomats

      In 2013, it was estimated that about 83,000 staff members worked in European Ministries for Foreign Affairs around the world. Probably half or at least one-third of these staff members are diplomats. It is more than what the US State Department rely on (approximately 73,000 staff worldwide) to dominate the planet (not including the military, of course). Yet, the EU is still seen as a political dwarf without an army (that is a non-subject). Despite progress and convergence of efforts in recent years, European professionals in international affairs still very much operate in parallel worlds. They often do exactly the same job: participate in political dialogue, reporting to their respective capitals, carry out lengthy negotiation of often quite similar bilateral deals (inspired from one another), seeking compromise in EU thematic and geographic working groups of the Council in Brussels, etc. In some countries, almost all member states are present with their own individual embassies, and again, their diplomats often do the same job. Of course, they regularly consult each other and coordinate thanks to the local EU Presidency chaired by the EU Delegations. But still, a lot of energy and resources are wasted because of overlapping functions and duplicated outputs. The EU has far too many diplomats doing the same things. Their human resources could,and should, be managed in a much more rational way.

      An example of development cooperation

      The EU Global Strategy is a multi-diplomacy document. It is not only about protocol, political representation and international law or conflicts negotiations. It is also about international cooperation, climate diplomacy, coalitions for poverty eradication, trade deals negotiations, research exchanges, fishery agreements, conventions on refugees and cultural relations. Implementation will be complex. Let’s take the case of development cooperation: The European Commission’s Directorate General in charge of this policy, DEVCO, manages around 1,890 staff. If you add those to the staff of some of the largest development and technical cooperation agencies in some EU member states such as France, UK, Germany and Belgium, you find that staff amounts to almost 20,000 people (with GIZ - Deustche Gesellshaft fur Internazionale Zusammenarbeit - in Germany employing over 17,000 staff alone worldwide). If you top this up with the 30,000 staff employed by European cultural institutes in and outside the EU, we see that the European Union has at least 130,000 staff to perform on the global stage (and I didn’t include economic diplomacy, technological cooperation and security relations). Of those 130,000 staff members, who will contribute to implementing the different aspects of the EU Global Strategy? How will tasks and burdens be shared?

      Will the EU institutions and member states be able to deliver collectively on the Global Strategy?

      Considering the current situation outlined above, what can European governments do to be prepared to implement the EU Global Strategy? The question is not, as Eurosceptics try to make people believe, about having 44 EU staff in the Barbados. It is about how to make the best use of the EU diplomatic potential at all levels, and how to foster European thematic expertise in collective external action. The second blog in this series will examine these questions in detail. Watch our video: How can the EU make the most of its diplomatic potential? The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of ECDPM.  
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