To mark the first anniversary of the European External Action Service (EAS), High Representative Catherine Ashton has issued a report assessing the record of the service over the past 12 months and identifying the challenges it might face in the future. The 13-page document was published on 6 January, a few weeks after foreign ministers from 12 EU countries had addressed a letter to Ashton criticising the service. The report was submitted to the presidents of the European Commission, European Council and European Parliament at the end of December 2011.


According to EAS officials, the foreign ministers of Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden did not criticise the service, but gave "constructive observations" on issues that should be addressed. "Part of the letter was coordinated with the EAS," a senior EU official said. "A strange connection was made between the report and the letter, but the report was drafted earlier," the source commented before reiterating that the report was not a response to the 12 foreign ministers' letter. Nevertheless, in their letter, the EU member states' representatives noted a lack of efficiency in the service, saying that "ways to further optimise the identification of political priorities should be explored". The ministers also mentioned the lack of coordination with the Commission, asking if the EAS had "the right organisational structure to ensure effective cooperation with the Commission on all external action aspects". One of the key criticisms made by the ministers was on the issues that the 140 EU delegations face throughout the world because of poor time-management in the service, lack of infrastructure-sharing and poor cooperation between the delegations and the Commission, which is responsible for the implementation of the budget. "An EU delegation can function effectively only if the head of delegation receives all necessary information in good time and can fully focus on political priorities, and if a delegation can manage its administrative expenditures efficiently," the letter stated.


In her report, Ashton discusses several points that were also raised by the 12 ministers. While recognising...

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