By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels
EU trains a new diplomatic corps – without waiting for Lisbon Treaty
The European Union was accused of “contempt for democracy” on Sunday after it emerged that hundreds of members of a new diplomatic service are being trained – even though the Lisbon Treaty that creates it has not come into effect.
Five hundred and thirty staff from the European Commission have already begun training to build a “shared diplomatic culture and an esprit de corps” for the EU’s putative External Action Service (EEAS).
Irish voters blocked the Lisbon Treaty, which provides the legal basis for a new Euro-diplomatic corps, when they rejected the renamed EU Constitution in a referendum last June.
The disclosure that the Commission has simply pressed on regardless and begun training the euro-diplomats […]. Ireland is expected to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in October.
Declan Ganley, an Irish campaigner for a “No” vote, said: “It is cause for serious concern that, by implementing the Lisbon Treaty, EU institutions are manifesting outright contempt for democracy.”
Privately, EU officials are aware of the sensitivity of going ahead with training a euro-diplomatic corps. “We are trying to push the envelope as far as we can within the current environment,” said one official in “European Voice”, a Brussels weekly.
Staff are being discreetly trained, “without being too obvious”, on 59 courses with the help of foreign ministries from 17 member states, according to EU sources.
The training aims to foster a “specifically European dimension of diplomacy” and to “create a sense of common European purpose” for the new service. Ireland is one of four EU member states – the others are Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany – which have yet to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Under the EU’s founding rules, no treaty of this kind can come into effect without the unanimous approval of all member states.
The Conservatives demanded to know whether the Foreign Office was among the national governments aiding the training courses. Mark Francois, the Conservative spokesman on the EU, said: “This project shows just how much more power Brussels would gain over our foreign policy. It is outrageous that the British people are being denied any say over it. That’s why the Conservatives will be campaigning for a referendum in the European elections.”
Secret negotiations, revealed last year by The Daily Telegraph, have agreed that the EEAS will take over the EU’s existing representative offices – there are currently more than 160 across the world – which will be granted the same legal diplomatic status as national embassies.
The new EU service will rival established national diplomatic corps. Britain, with one of the world’s largest diplomatic services, maintains 139 Embassies and High Commissions. Britain narrowly blocked a proposal to call the EU’s representative offices the “Embassies of the Union” during secret talks last spring.
The EEAS will be overseen by a new European “foreign minister”, renamed the “High Representative of the Union”. If Ireland’s voters approve the Lisbon Treaty in a second referendum, this official will be selected, along with a new EU president, at a summit in December.
Privately, officials are concerned that disclosure of the EU’s pre-emptive moves could sway Irish voters and make a “Yes” vote in the referendum harder to achieve. Secret minutes on the EEAS negotiations recognise the need “to remain cautious in presenting these issues” ahead of the second Irish vote.