This post is an element supporting my optimistic view about the new EU diplomatic service, at least with a medium to long term perspective. In a separate post, I explain why EAS will eventually succeed.
First, I remember visiting years ago the Embassy of a large EU country to Beijing, together a group of corporate executives investing in China. It had taken weeks to find a slot in the busy man’s agenda. During the meeting, the old style Ambassador talked for a long time about ancient history and cultural links. He seemed not to have understood what trade and business are, as if these were beneath his level. As I finally was able to put my question about China’s negociations with the WTO and any European coordination, he referred the question to an attaché, and left the room a few minutes later…
Is this the European diplomacy some want to protect by slowing down or over controling the emerging EU service?
Secondly, I was once an EU official involved in WTO negociations. No, I won’t reveal any secrets, even years later. Suffice to say that I was representing DG COMP (then DG IV) in the EU Delegation on telecoms negociations, a follow-up to the Uruguay Round. Like for all trade matters, and even more for services, the EU Delegation was led by the Commission but including representatives of all Member States, our ‘Godmothers’, or ‘mothers in law’, as we used to tease them (for DG TRADE, other DGs like mine and XIII / INFSO were also controllers as much as helpers!). So, we all worked together for two years, meeting several times per month in Brussels and in Geneva.
To make a long story short: I was amazed by Europe’s capacity to bring a deal around, bridging between the US, the emerging economies and the third world. Building on this large delegation, we were able to leverage cultural and business links to all parts of the world. Our processes were more complex than others, and there were some turf battles – ‘competence issues’, as lawyers and diplomats call them in a misleading way. But overall it was manageable and successful.
If this worked in the 1990’s without the Lisbon Treaty, it will work in the 2010’s even better.
Now my last anecdote, more recent and even more hopeful. Last July, on a personal fact-finding mission about Ukraine’s European perspective, I visited the EU Delegation in Kyiv. It had taken 24 hours to set-up a meeting, despite not sharing my host’s passport. And despite no answer to my contacts with the headquaters supposedly in charge in Brussels…
I was met by a young but competent official, not a Brussels Eurocrat but somebody with national and academic experience, clearly selected on merits. He knew all the relevant people, had little time but went right to the point. Off the record, he explained me the prerequisites for further EU integration, the options depending on elections, and how to structure the policy incentives for better behaviour of Ukrainain authorities. He was not just idealistic, which is good in principle, but also very conscious of the EU’s self interest. And he knew the importance of working with the media, in both Europe and Ukraine, in order to bring both public opinions closer.
Among my 10 meetings in Kyiv, that one at the EU Delegation was the best. *
This is the XXIst Century diplomacy we need!
(* I confess I didn’t try the national Embassies at that time and do commend the French monitoring webpages of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Embassy to the EU is also very helpful).Christophe Leclercq