Foreign Policy Blogs

What is an EU diplomat?

eu-pic3What is an EU diplomat? So far the term has covered a wide scope of diplomats of European origin. It can mean a European Commission official (the only truly European institution), a European Council official or even a diplomat from one of the member states.

This state of affairs has been marked by the so-called “EU-diplomats” often having a strong affiliation with their nation of origin, and with the identity and culture of the diplomatic corps from which they stem. Unavoidably, these diplomats represent national interests rather than a coherent European foreign policy.

As I wrote in an earlier blog (US-EU relations: Different President same problems) European countries often value their bilateral relations with the US higher than the EU-US channels of communication, when it comes to matters outside the sphere of trade policy. The same can be said for member states relationships with other major player such as India and China. A recent example of the competing national agendas in European foreign policy was the Italian and Dutch nay to a UN probe of the Gaza aid-flotilla incident. Although Ashton promptly insisted that Europe “speaks with one voice” the facts spoke otherwise.

Of course, this will all change with the launch of the EAS this autumn – right? The EAS will independently appoint its’ top representatives (the Lisbon Treaty does indeed provide Lady Ashton with the power of appointment ) according to meritocratic principles.

In reality, the choice postings are likely to be determined in corridor deals. Realistically speaking, if big players such as Germany, France and England are overlooked in the appointment process, they will simply fall back on their national diplomatic corps to ensure that their national interests are represented in EU foreign policy.

However, plans do exist to create an academy to train a corps of truly European diplomats. At present, the idea is to integrate the academy into existing EU-academies, such as the EU Council’s European and Defence College or the European Diplomatic Programme, and at a later time create an EAS training faculty.

This plan speaks for the creation of an EU foreign policy entity capable of perceiving the world in European terms. The question remains, even if the EAS successfully invents itself as a European diplomatic corps, will its’ voice be drowned out by the long-established national diplomatic corps?



Finn Maigaard

Finn Maigaard holds an MA in history from the University of Copenhagen. As an MA student Finn focused on diplomatic history culminating in a thesis on US-Danish security cooperation in the Cold War. Finn also interned at the Hudson Institute's Political-Military Center, where he concentrated on the EU's role as a security institution, and at the World Affairs Institute as a Communications/Editorial Research Assistant. Finn currently resides in Washington, DC and works as a freelance writer, and as Program Coordinator at the University of Maryland's National Foreign Language Center.

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