About this Event06 Oct 2011 @ 12:45
You can listen and download the keynote speech in .mp3 format here.
About the Speech:
David O’Sullivan returned to the Institute nine months on from his last address to provide an update on the development of the European External Action Service – the EU’s new diplomatic service. His speech covered the organisational, policy and political dimensions of setting up the EEAS.
The organisational dimension:
Mr O’Sullivan discussed the challenges of making the EEAS operational, since its launch in January 2011 on a “shoestring.” He pointed to successes on this front which include: the creation of a provisional organisational structure incorporating three different institutional cultures (the Commission, the Council of the EU and the national diplomatic services); the negotiation of a deal for what will become the EEAS’s Brussels HQ; and the launch of a major recruitment drive, which has put the EEAS well on the way to achieving its targets for national diplomats to comprise one third of the EEAS staff by 2013. While the “best part of the heavy lifting is done,” he said, the challenge now is to “fine tune the organisation,” so that it can deliver on its policy priorities.
The policy dimension:
The key priorities outlined by David O’Sullivan in his January 2011 address – neighbourhood policy, strategic partnerships and security/crisis management – remain top of the policy agenda.
On Europe’s neighbourhood, which is “the most important theme” in the EU’s external relations, the Arab Spring was a “watershed” for Catherine Ashton and for the EEAS, which “tested the readiness and resolve” of the organisation, he argued. He maintained that the EEAS has “risen to the occasion” in its response, acting as policy and donor coordinator and responding to the “specific needs” of each country, rather than viewing them all through “the same policy lenses.”
Though the Southern Neighbourhood has come into focus since the Arab Spring, “we haven’t neglected the Eastern neighbourhood,” said Mr O’Sullivan. While there have been some “regrettable steps backward” in the transition to democracy in Belarus and the Ukraine, the “strategic importance” of the Eastern Partnership was reinforced at the Warsaw Summit, held in September 2011, where all leaders, except Belarus, agreed to move forward on a roadmap.
On foot of the European Council on strategic partnerships in September 2010, the EEAS has intensified its ties with strategic partners, including China, the US, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa. In order to remain influential in the eyes of these partners, the point is “not so much having a single voice but passing a single message,” said Mr O’Sullivan. The big challenge is to ensure that Member States “sing from the same hymn sheet” in their bilateral contacts.
As the US reduces its overseas presence, “there is going to be increased pressure for the EU to shoulder a bigger share of the burden in the security field,” he argued. A “more integrated” crisis response method is required to deliver this, linked to security policy and peace building.
The political dimension:
The EEAS has had to navigate the new institutional politics in the post-Lisbon environment. “The single biggest challenge” in this respect, according to Mr O’Sullivan, was “learning how to support the High Representative in her role as chair of the Foreign Affairs Council,” a role previously fulfilled by the Rotating Presidency. This has been “a learning experience” and Mr O’Sullivan spoke of his “new respect for the way in which presidencies manage issues.” Delegations in third countries have also “successfully made the transition from Commission to EU Delegations”, he said, with “huge cooperation” from Member States in their national capitals and on the ground in third countries. The EEAS has also established “good working relations with the Commission.”
“The establishment of a common EU diplomatic service is a long-term project,” maintained Mr O’Sullivan, and the EEAS needs time to establish “trust and smooth working relations with Member States who feel strongly that foreign affairs are a key part of their sovereign identity...It would be deeply unfair to judge the overall success of this project on the basis of our first 9 months in office.”
He pointed nonetheless to a number of early successes achieved by the EEAS and the High Representative. These include the crisis response in Haiti and the Southern Neighbourhood, the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia, a more central role for the EU in the Middle East Peace where it is now a “player” as well as a “payer,” the maintenance of stability in the Balkans, and the achievement of enhanced status for the EU in the UN General Assembly.
Mr O’Sullivan believes that the EEAS is a “5 to 10 to 15 year project where the challenge will be to build a professional diplomatic service, which can deliver to the extent that Member States wish and choose to have common positions and objectives.” While he acknowledged that it may be “three steps forwards and two steps back,” he maintained that the direction of travel is absolutely clear.”
“If I come back in ten years time” he concluded, “we will be astounded by what has been achieved. The global pressures and budgetary pressures on foreign and defence ministries all lead us in the same direction: If we want to be effective and cost effective, we have to do more things together and...the EEAS can provide a platform for implementing this increasing political will on the part of the Member States.”
The IIEA wishes to acknowledge the support it has received from the European Commission throughout 2011.
Theme: Future of Europe
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