A difficult political context
European integration is at a crossroads. It faces a crucial moment for its stability and long-term future. At the external level, the European Union struggles to establish for itself an important role on the international scene. It struggles to find united answers and to set up a unified representation. At the internal level, it encounters increasing difficulties to face up to its internal challenges in a coordinated way, as demonstrated by the recent financial crisis and the surprises accompanying the establishment and the implementation of the support plan for Greece.
We are witnessing, in addition, a return to nationalist insults and simplistic stereotypes that go together with the resurgence of populist parties and the emergence of the extreme right in national politics. Public opinion is thrown into doubt, uncertainty and resentment. It is the season of all dangers for the European Union.
EEAS: a new challenge for the European Union
The setting up of the EEAS as provided for by the Lisbon Treaty can, in this context, contribute to the Community institutions finding a response to these external challenges. It would also meet the expectations of European citizens who want to see the role of the Union increasing on the international stage.
To this end, the spirit and the letter of the Treaty must be respected. Thus the obvious and growing tendency to a growing intergovernmentalism and the associated risk of renationalisation, demonstrated in the distribution of appointments and areas of influence, must be countered.
The European Parliament states that, up until now, the College of Commissioners has yielded ground and has abandoned its role. And this despite the statements of principle not carried through into fact, on an EEAS “the least distant as possible” from the Commission. The transparency of Commission policy on this subject is therefore in question.
The Commission appears to have anticipated the expectations of the Council: it seems intent to transfer to the EEAS, conceived as a de facto institution, whole chunks of areas which up until now were of its exclusive responsibility, in particular as regards development aid and neighbourhood policy.
Consequently, there is a danger of the European Union taking a step backwards. The EU would be turning its back on what has made it successful: the defence and promotion by the Commission of the common interest of the countries and of the citizens of the Union. The mechanism is known: the weakening of the Union spreads to that of its Institutions and their personnel, which in turn weakens European integration.
Support the step taken by the European Parliament
This is why, the Commission has to take more into account the position of the European Parliament, which demands – as the trade unions of the trade-union majority noted at their meeting with the EP’s rapporteurs examining the proposal – that the EEAS is conceived as a Commission service, as permitted by the Treaty. Let us recall that the only Institution to which Mrs Ashton “belongs” is the Commission.
The trade-union majority defends this approach, and the prerogatives of the European Parliament as regards democratic control. The College has also to move away from, at the time of the setting up of the EEAS, the fiction of budget-neutrality, which is only the mask of the weakening of the Commission as regards the increase in precarious jobs and the questioning of our statutory rights.
Our proposals aim to ensure an optimum integration of the EEAS in the Commission and also to safeguard the interests of its personnel.
For the trade-union majority, personnel transferred to the EEAS should have the right to be heard in the so-called chambres d’écoute. In particular, the possibilities for transfers between this service and the other Commission departments have to be real, inter alia to allow colleagues who wish to leave the EEAS.
We wish to preserve within the EEAS a balance between the three sources of personnel – the Commission, Council, national diplomats. Significant improvement of social welfare for local agents working outside the EU should be implemented. Finally, the personnel of the EEAS has to have its Staff Committee attached to the Central Staff Committee of the Commission. A more detailed text will follow shortly referring to all our demands.