I have been making enquiries about the build up of the EU External Action service. In the UK there is a tendency to play this down, to say that it is limited in scale and will not detract from our own Foreign Office and foreign policy.
According to the EU’s website 1525 staff transferred to the new External Action Service when it was set up last year. They recruited another 118 staff immediately.
The EU now has 130 Embassies around the world, covering all the important countries and global institutions, and many smaller countries as well. The European Parliament reports that the aim is ” to set up numerous delegations to third countries and to international organisaitons … a network with approximately 5000 staff” .
As the official EU site says, the purpose is the “conduct of the Union’s common foreign and security policy”. The External Action Service a “a functionally autonomous body of the EU”. The High Representative or EU Foreign Secretary is also President of Foreign Affairs Council, acting as Chairman to all the Foreign Ministers of the Member states.
The External Action Service states “The policy mix is vast, ranging from bilateral agreements to guidelines and legislation”. The Service controls the substantial EU aid budget. It also works with the army units available for EU missions, subject to Member state approval.