IMI-Analyse 2009/045en

The European External Action Service: “Joined-Up” Imperialism

von: Martin Hantke | Veröffentlicht am: 11. Dezember 2009


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The Treaty of Lisbon was intended to raise Europe’s international profile and create a single telephone number for world leaders to call. Following the appointment of Hermann van Rompuy as President of the European Council and the Briton Catherine Ashton as High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, both will in future attend international summits together with the President of the Commission.

At a time when power-political conflicts are on the rise, these new posts have been created with the aim of significantly increasing the European Union’s clout by pooling competences. The turf wars between the Commission, which was responsible for much of the “civilian” external policy, and the Council, which was responsible for civilian and military operations, played a significant role in preventing “joined-up power politics”. This will change with the new post of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, abolishing this obstructive division of responsibilities. A parliamentary study from 3 November 2009 said that the High Representative would be responsible on the one hand for the determination and implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), while on the other hand he would be assigned responsibility within the Commission for its competences in the field of external relations and with coordination of the remaining aspects of the EU’s external action.

However, Rompuy and Ashton do not have a high profile; they are mere figureheads, with the EU bureaucracy and the big EU Member States – Germany, the UK and France – standing behind them. They will call the shots and divide the bureaucracies up between them in future. For it is beyond the political level that the real work of implementing the Treaty of Lisbon is currently taking place. In particular, the establishment of a European External Action Service (EEAS) will completely transform the European Foreign and Security Policy. In future it will bring together nearly all of the EU’s civilian and military powers under one roof and serve to strengthen the assertion of national interests. This Service is one of the skeletons which are now emerging from the closet of the Treaty of Lisbon, having lurked in the darkness for years while the ratification process was incomplete.

After Lisbon

On 1 December 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force. The projects to implement it are waiting in the desk drawers of the Council and the Commission. It is no coincidence that the EEAS has been given top priority. At its meeting on 17 November 2009, the Council adopted a declaration entitled “ESDP Ten Years – Challenges and Opportunities” to celebrate that “the European Council took the historic decision at its Summit in Cologne in June 1999”, with reference to the wars in the Balkans, “to establish the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) as a part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy”. Since then, the declaration proudly proclaimed, not only had over “22 ESDP missions and operations in three continents across the full range of conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict peace-building tasks” been deployed, but furthermore “we have reformed our structures; elaborated and refined our planning capability; improved our crisis management and rapid response capabilities; and increased our cooperation with key partners and contributing Third States”.

The declaration is forthright about why the Treaty of Lisbon is so important for the militarisation of the EU: “The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty will entail a new chapter in the history of the EU’s common foreign, security and defence policy by further strengthening its common institutional framework.” The cornerstones of this militarisation are the High Representative and the EEAS which will be accountable to him or her: “The new post of a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, assisted by the European External Action Service (EEAS), will considerably increase effectiveness also in the field of ESDP.” And this is meant to be just the beginning: “We will now work towards ensuring a strong, effective and visible role for the first incumbent of this office. We shall take concrete steps, as appropriate, to implement all provisions and articles of the Lisbon Treaty relevant to CSDP,” the EU document states.

Security policy is intended to be at the centre of European foreign policy, not only in conceptual terms, but also in institutional terms, including via the EEAS, where they are to be interlocked to an unprecedented degree: “When establishing the EEAS, we will also enhance the efficiency of the structures for the planning and conduct of our crisis management missions and operations. The EEAS, under the direction of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, will also assure closer links to other European Union instruments and policies.”

A service of an entirely different kind

Even during the drafting of the Treaty of Lisbon’s predecessor, the EU constitutional treaty, the establishment of the EEAS was already the central idea for the restructuring of the EU Foreign and Security Policy. Germany’s Federal Foreign Office claims to have put forward this idea. Under Foreign Minister Fischer, the Germans involved in the convention process pressed for the EEAS. Originally, it was meant to be subordinate to a strong EU foreign minister, who would have had even further-reaching powers than the “High Representative” we now have instead. From the very beginning, however, the intention was to create a strong, centralised bureaucracy to boost the national interests of the large Member States, including Germany.

Article 27 (3) of the Treaty of Lisbon formally stipulates: “In fulfilling his mandate, the High Representative shall be assisted by a European External Action Service.” Furthermore, the Treaty specifies that the EEAS “shall work in cooperation with the diplomatic services of the Member States” and “shall comprise officials from relevant departments of the General Secretariat of the Council and of the Commission as well as staff seconded from national diplomatic services”. With regard to the way forward, the article states that “The organisation and functioning of the European External Action Service shall be established by a decision of the Council.” It is precisely this decision which is to be prepared now, in December 2009, and finally taken in April 2010. Neither the national parliaments nor the European Parliament have any influence over this crucial decision, because the Treaty of Lisbon itself stipulates: “The Council shall act on a proposal from the High Representative after consulting the European Parliament and after obtaining the consent of the Commission.”

When, for example, Elmar Brok, an EU politician specialising in foreign policy who was involved in drafting the Treaty of Lisbon, now calls for the European Parliament to be involved in the decision on what form the EEAS should take, it would seem that he has forgotten what he nodded through at the time. The parliaments are being ignored. Consulted, yes, but involved in decision-making, no. Almost in secret, in the summer of 2009, before the second Irish referendum had even taken place, the Swedish presidency drafted a text on the development of the EEAS, drawing on the proposals of the Big Three. Immediately after Ireland had given the green light, this was revised internally and rubber-stamped by the EU Council already in late October.

And so all of the main aspects have already been determined: a service of a “sui generis” nature will be established; in other words, it will be subordinate to neither the Council nor the Commission. This will make it even less controllable. It will thus be almost an autonomous body, like an EU agency. Except that this will be the EU’s biggest ever agency. Plans for staffing levels vary between 5000 and over 7500 officials – equivalent to the diplomatic service of a large member state. The reason why the service is not to be subordinate to the Commission is made clear in the parliamentary study referred to above, which states that if the EEAS were to be attached to the Commission, the EEAS would be subject to the control/scrutiny of the EP, for which reason the EP called for the EEAS to be integrated into the Commission. This would also give the EP a greater voice in the EU’s external policy. Given that, from the perspective of those in power, it is preferable to keep the democratic right to be involved in decision-making and the separation of powers out of issues of war and peace entirely, if possible, the current solution of an autonomous agency was considered ideal.

The second characteristic on which the Member States have already agreed is the politico-military nature of the EEAS. This means that the EU’s military structures are also intended to become part of the EEAS (see below). This is almost as if Germany were to integrate its foreign and defence ministries, as well as the most important units of the development ministry. The third crucial decision is that the UK and France have secured the right to squeeze private-sector employees into the service. For its part, Germany will evidently play an important role in financial control. In general, around 20% of EEAS staff are to come from Germany. Germany is also to supply at least 150 (a fifth) of the higher-level officials. The EU’s 130 delegations abroad are also to be part of the EEAS; they will, if the Big Three have their way, also have security attachés and, if necessary, sections focusing on preventing terrorism and migration. A horizontal separation of powers will be abolished, as in the position of the High Representative itself; a central achievement of the civic state destroyed at the stroke of a pen. At EU level the bureaucracies are to be merged openly and without compromise, with not even the appearance of a separation of powers. At issue is the merging of powers to facilitate the assertion of the capitalist interests of the three big EU Member States at international level.

Naturally, the medium-sized and smaller Member States are meant to profit too, and will do so. But in conceptual and staffing terms, they will be inadequately reflected in the EEAS. In addition, there is a danger that it will become increasingly difficult for smaller Member States to pursue an independent foreign policy as the EEAS becomes more powerful. The alternative foreign policy pursued by Demetris Christofias, the Communist President of the Republic of Cyprus, for example towards Latin America, is then likely to meet with greater resistance. The way in which the EEAS has been conceived thus means a gain in sovereignty for Germany, France and the UK which goes hand in hand with the risk of a massive loss of sovereignty for the other EU Member States, in particular the smaller states.

The politico-military service

Reports from the Council suggest that only France opposed the integration of the military structures into the EEAS. But anyone who imagines this as an act of Gallic heroism in the tradition of the French revolution is likely to be mistaken. There are many signs that France’s conservative government – which feels about as beholden to its Gaullist heritage as Germany’s Social Democrats do to that of Karl Marx – was solely concerned with ensuring, for reasons which have already been set out, that the EEAS did not come under the control of the EU Commission.

All operational military and civil-military structures are to be part of the EEAS and thus brought under the control of the High Representative. The Military Staff previously attached to the Council is also to be integrated into the EEAS, as is the Situation Centre (SitCen), the EU’s central intelligence unit. Above all, however, directorates E-VIII – responsible for strategic and military operational planning – and E-IX (civilian crisis management), both previously attached to the Council, are to become part of the EEAS. At the same time, it is intended to merge DG-VII and IX to create a new “Crisis Management Planning Directorate” (CMPD). In this way, civilian and military aspects of EU policy are being merged in institutional terms and the boundaries blurred to the point where they are no longer identifiable – as stated above, this is about unified imperial power politics.

What is remarkable in this context is not only the extent to which this is occurring as if it were a given, but also the extent to which it could be used as a model for structures in the EU Member States in future. There is a risk that the FDP’s dream of abolishing the ministry responsible for development assistance may already become reality at EU level. Creating “networked security” is the buzzword of the hour, for which a service has already been created at European level. While in Germany it still seems to be necessary to convene inter-ministerial working groups on Afghanistan, Brussels is already a step ahead. One of the main reasons why the EEAS as a politico-military service is so dangerous is that it will be used as a blueprint at diplomatic level for permanent preparations for occupation regimes. At the very least, it brings together all the elements which are considered necessary for this – from troops to “civilian” colonial administrators (see box).

Will trade German for hegemony

As far as the question of the languages used within the EEAS is concerned, malicious tongues in Brussels are already saying that German as an EEAS language is being sacrificed on the altar of German imperialism. Only English and French are planned as EEAS languages so far, as is the case for the Political and Security Committee, the PSC. Even as it encourages the Bundestag to reject all documents that the EU Commission sends to Berlin in English only, for example, the German government is making no effort whatsoever in Brussels in the development of the EEAS to ensure that German is made a third working language, as it is in other EU bodies. The concessions made to Germany regarding political influence on the EEAS appear to be too important for it to want to take on the British and the French. The news portal “” reported in mid-November that Werner Hoyer, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, had said that it was in no way necessary for the President of the Council or the High Representative to come from Germany – so much for the figureheads referred to at the start. Where the real power lies, however, namely the officials’ level immediately below, Germany “lays great weight on relevantly participating”.

In summary: Germany’s global efforts to further capitalist interests are being conducted in English and French. The German language, on which Germany otherwise always insists in questions relating to EU working languages, is being traded in as part of a package deal. Who would have believed that possible under a conservative-liberal government?

The bill, please!

No one knows exactly how high the cost of the EEAS will be. All that is clear is who will foot the bill. The declaration by the heads of state and government on ten years of the European Security and Defence Policy says tersely: “We acknowledge that the CFSP budget should be adequate to serve our policy and to respond to current and future challenges.” Only now is it becoming clear what the obligation to engage in an arms build-up enshrined in the Treaty of Lisbon means. The ESDP declaration states: “We pledge to continue to improve our capacity to provide national and multinational capabilities for the European Union’s missions and operations. The growth of ESDP calls for increased availability of civilian and military personnel and equipment.”

This will create a need for significant additional funding for the development of the foreign and security policy in general, but also for the EEAS in particular. While other options are also being considered, the EEAS report by the Swedish Presidency suggests that in future the High Representative should propose a budget for the EEAS and that it should have its own section of the EU budget – a very nice feature which could potentially lead to a dramatic increase in the overall budget. But where is the money supposed to come from? From 2014 onwards, it is expected that a great deal of additional funding will be needed for the EEAS. However, it is unlikely that there will be a significant increase in the EU budget in the next electoral term. The EU Commission is therefore discussing with the EU Member States the possibility of siphoning off money from the structural funds for the regions and, from 2013 onwards, to simply allow certain types of structural fund – which are of crucial importance for the poorer EU regions – to expire. The second idea is no less perfidious. It involves a smash-and-grab on agricultural funding, which would be cut to free up money to raise Europe’s international profile. The crucial decision is to what extent the funds which are freed up are used for the militarisation of the European Union. In this context, Michael Dauderstädt, then head of international policy analysis at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a political foundation with close links to the Social Democratic Party, wrote an article in the Financial Times Deutschland back in January 2004 which has now turned out to be almost uncannily prophetic: “In 2002 the European Union spent around 46 billion euros on agriculture. […] The EU would be better off investing this money in the research, development and production of military equipment […] In tackling problems pro-actively, the armament process needs to equip a military whose operational principles are equivalent to those of a global police force. High-precision armaments are needed. The area of deployment is often outside Europe. […] Europe needs a common armaments policy instead of the Common Agricultural Policy, in other words, guns, not butter.”


Box: Back to the future: the EEAS as a new EU colonial authority

Anyone who wants a glimpse of the future of the EEAS would be well advised to look at the EU’s current preparations for a political “military” intervention in Somalia. All diplomatic and military resources are being used to suppress political forces in the Horn of Africa which stand in the way of the EU’s own interests. The full arsenal of a future EEAS is being used. While an EU military mission is being launched to train Somali soldiers in Uganda and Djibouti, Eritrea is being subjected to diplomatic threats to stop it from supporting the “terrorists” which are causing problems for the EU’s partners in Somalia.

The EU intends for the situation to be sorted out by Somalia’s ‘Transitional Federal Government’, which is also being supported at sea, with the ATALANTA mission, ostensibly intended to combat piracy. With just one flaw: pirate attacks have increased since the start of the EU mission. And internally, there are discussions about whether the introduction of Sharia law by the EU-supported Somali transitional government in 2009, and the growing number of stonings under its rule, could represent a problem – although only, of course, as far as public acceptance of EU involvement in the region is concerned.

In view of the European media’s silence on this ongoing scandal, this peak of EU hypocrisy is unlikely to pose an obstacle to even greater intervention, including military intervention, in the Horn of Africa. One thing is certain, however: the EU’s dirty war in the Horn of Africa has already begun and is already providing good practice for the institutional merging involved in the EEAS. No matter what lies ahead, the EU’s new policy towards Africa is a look back to the future. The EEAS would not be the first colonial authority based in Brussels.