The European Commission:Inside and Out – ‘Administering EU Foreign Policy after Lisbon: The case of the EEAS’

Dr Simon Duke
ISBN 13 EIPA Code #: 2008/W/01 Year: 2008 Pages: 30 Digital: 0 €

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Paper prepared for the EU-Consent Workshop, Edinburgh, May 15-16 2008

This panel has been invited to consider the timely theme, ‘Administering EU Foreign Policy after Lisbon’. The title alone begs a number of questions. We do not know for sure that Lisbon will be ratified and the hopes of the Eurosceptics are pinned on Ireland’s referendum. The term ‘foreign policy’ covers a whole range of activities, including the external ramifications of internal policies, the external effects of the Eurozone, right through to the more traditional areas associated with diplomacy and crisis management. Then there is the question of what is meant by ‘administering’; in this contribution emphasis is placed on those treaty-based efforts to improve the consistency and coherence of EU external relations. Aside from these terminological issues, there is the broader challenge of trying to understand the administrative implications of the Lisbon Treaty at a time when, for understandable reasons, there is extreme reluctance to reveal any cards by those who are and will be involved in EU external relations. So, what can the researcher contribute at this juncture?
The response, which provides the framework for this contribution, is twofold. First, the researcher can pose the obvious, and perhaps not so obvious, questions that arise from a careful reading of the Lisbon Treaty. The argument to be followed below is that the treaty holds the potential to address many of the current issues of consistency and coherence that bedevil the EU in its external relations, but that the realisation of this potential will depend very much upon what happens post-ratification since the treaty only provides a loose framework and the details have yet to emerge. The importance of debating potentially sensitive developments outside the EU institutions is all the more important at a time when staff in the institutions are, for understandable reasons, generally disinclined to engage in debate. This does not, however, imply that staff within the institutions are disinterested in the external debate.
The second response is that the researcher, unlike most practitioners, has the luxury of often contemplating a broader picture. This point ties in with the overarching theme of this workshop, the ‘Once in a generation survey’, since the chance to reform the external relations of the EU arises once in a generation; the costs of not getting the reforms right will last for more than a generation. It has taken almost two generations to get to the current point where there is apparent consensus on the need to change the way in which the Union conducts its external relations. A whole generation, or more, inside and beyond Europe will be influenced by the manner in which the Lisbon treaty is, or is not, implemented.