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CEPS European Neighbourhood Watch. Issue 56


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CEPS European Neighbourhood Watch. Issue 54

Editorial by Michael Emerson: "Sequel to the Lisbon Treaty for the EU’s diplomatic representation"

The new High Representative, Catherine Ashton, has got to work on the forthcoming European External Action Service, butwithout yet as far as we can tell going into important issues of the EU’s presence in the multilateral organizations, which today is an obsolete jumble of ad hoc arrangements. There is something to be done here which goes far beyond the complicated but only secondary matter of reorganisation of Council and Commission staff in Brussels.

The EU is now endowed with international legal personality by the Lisbon Treaty. A first taste of its implications has already been registered at the UN Security Council. In New York as elsewhere in the world the nameplate of the European Commission is now replaced by the nameplate of the European Union. So far not so exciting, maybe. But the next slightly more important step has been for the coordination meeting of the EU and its member states to prepare a position to be presented to the Security Council, which is now presided by the EU Head of Delegation, not by the ambassador of the rotating presidency.

But there are far bigger questions looming up, namely the status of the EU and its member states, and their respective voting weights, in virtually all the world’s multilateral organizations, both political and economic. The EU declares its commitment to an effective multilateral world order. But the obsolescence of it representation in most organizations becomes increasingly clearly now an obstacle to just this. The G8, with four EU member states plus the Commission, has now been virtually put to sleep in favour of the G20, which however sees a fairly anarchic degree of effective gate-crashing by various states including yet more from the EU (Spain and the Netherlands).  But at least the EU is fully present itself there, now presumably with its two presidents Van Rompuy and Barroso in summit meetings. By contrast the EU has no regular place in the UN Security Council, the IMF or World Bank. Not even the Eurozone has a formal place in the IMF, whereas some smaller EU member states like Belgium have a bigger weight still than China. At the OSCE and OECD the EU is just an observer. On the other hand the Commission is a shareholder and has a director at the EBRD alongside the member states, and it is a member of the FAO. So, today there is no system, just a set of ad hoc arrangements.

The overrepresentation of the member states and under- or non-representation of the EU itself means that the governing bodies are impaired in their effectiveness and legitimacy. The Obama administration has been described as the most multilateralist in intent of all US administrations of recent decades, but it is also pragmatic, and will not support multilateral organizations that cannot for any reason be reformed. The EU also wants to draw China, India, Brazil and Russia into a new world order. If this is truly so the EU has to be consistent and reform its own presences in the organizations that exist in order to assert itself more clearly and to make way for these newly emerging or re-emerging world powers.

Therefore the new High Representative would be well advised to set up a working group to conduct a thorough review of the status quo, and formulate recommendations over how to bring the EU’s status in the multilateral organizations more in line with today’s realities and needs. No doubt there should be a schema that sets out a range of short, medium and long-run perspectives. Not everything at once. But there should be a concept, a method and an early start.

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№2(41), 2010