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EU Foreign Policy After Lisbon

Will the New High Representative and the External Action Service Make a Difference? C·A·P Policy Analysis 2/08

Jonas Paul*: Will the New High Representative and the External Action Service Make a Difference?
C·A·P Policy Analysis · 2 · 2008

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06.06.2008 · By Jonas Paul


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The Lisbon treaty will fundamentally alter the foreign policy set-up of the European Union. Among the key innovations figure the establishment of the foreign affairs high representative and the European External Action Service (EAS). Their creation may well lead to a new era of European diplomacy, providing the Union with a genuine foreign policy chief and a full-fledged foreign service. Are these only high hopes, or will the Lisbon institutional engineering really make a difference? Will the Union henceforth speak with one voice at the international level? And will it back up its talk with firm action?

This paper attempts to answer these questions by, first of all, analysing the treaty provisions concerned and establishing the way they are to be implemented. This includes ascertaining the high representative and EAS’s responsibilities and competences, their respective relationship with other key actors, as well as the possible structure, composition, size and scope of the EAS. In a second step, the paper assesses the new arrangements’ implications for EU foreign policy-making. It analyses how foreign policy-making will change and to which extent current institutional shortcomings of EU external action will be addressed. The analysis takes a neo-institutionalist approach, drawing on insights from both historical and sociological institutionalism.

The paper argues that the new high representative will be agenda-setter, decision-shaper, coordinator and consensus-builder. He will be chief representative and principal negotiator, implement EU foreign policy and watch over the Union’s crisis management. The EAS will support the high representative in all his tasks and is likely to develop into the new analytical hub of EU foreign policy-making. Together, the new office and its service will increase the visibility, continuity, consistency and efficiency of EU external action. They will enhance diplomatic professionalism and have the potential to mitigate the Union’s structural lack of leadership. However, many questions still remain open and some new problems might crop up. The ultimate significance of the Lisbon reforms will depend on several conditions, chiefly relating to: the high representative’s relations to the Commission president and European Council president; the EAS’s exact scope; the member states’ feeling of ownership of the new service; and the high representative’s skill to pursue a pro-active agenda while gaining the member states’ confidence.

* Jonas Paul worked as research assistant at the Center for Applied Policy Research (C·A·P) and is currently pursuing postgraduate studies at the College of Europe in Bruges.



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