The Lisbon Treaty has enhanced the international Role of the EU.
The appointment of a High Representative, de facto a EU foreign minister, and the creation of a diplomatic service, composed of officials from EU institutions and member states, are the most innovative changes.
Thanks to this new constitutional framework the 50-year old Commission Delegations have been replaced by EU Delegations that represent the EU.
Presently the EU maintains 139 Delegations accredited to third countries and multilateral organisations, the most extensive diplomatic network after those of USA, China, France, Germany and UK.
Member states continue to maintain bilateral embassies and consulates inside and outside the EU. Thus Romania, Poland, Czech Republic, Finland and Greece have more than 60 diplomatic missions outside the EU, the result tradition, prestige and trade promotion. Governments seem to consider the high costs worth-while, though EU Delegations could provide most of the political and economic intelligence and one day even the consular tasks.
Member States remain, of course, masters of their diplomatic networks. But sooner or later, smaller member states will feel the crunch of high running costs, especially in regions with high security risks. That is why in the long run only big member countries can afford a dense diplomatic network. The others will prefer to let EU Delegations do the work for them.
In view of giving a boost to exports national export promotion agencies and chambers of commerce should explore the idea of more joint representations to lower costs and enhance visibility, the costs of which might be shared with the EU budget. In difficult and expensive locations like China and Japan this is already the case. EU Delegations should rather abstain from entering this area.
The 28 member states cannot indefinitely afford to fund the biggest diplomatic and consular service on earth. They should be able to obtain the same quality of services through a much leaner system.
The next Commission and High Representative should therefore review its effectiveness of the and make proposals for its improvement.
Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 9/5/2014Author : Eberhard Rhein