Solana waits too long for creation of first multi-national foreign service

International News Services (Link) - David Haworth (July 10, 2009)

After a decade as the European Union�s (EU) foreign policy supremo, Javier Solana is to step down this autumn � sadly for him � he could not wait long enough for the creation of the world�s first multinational �foreign minister� post.

�Enough is enough,� the former Spanish foreign minister and for four years head of NATO, says the EU High Representative of Foreign and Security Policy and added that he remains �calm and satisfied.�

His departure is not a surprise after such a long tenure but it comes at an ironical point. Just as he leaves, the EU will take the first concrete steps in its long held plan to establish the infrastructure of its own foreign service.

If the Lisbon Treaty is ratified towards the end of the year, it will create for Solana�s successor a much greater status than he has enjoyed. That person will, by virtue of office, become a European Commission Vice President and will be the chairman of all the Foreign Affairs Ministers� meetings.

Even more grandiose, the carrier of Solana�s baton will head up the new EU diplomatic service � the so-called External Action Service � which will slice through traditional, bilateral diplomacy by EU members in many parts of the world.

Solana saw himself in that role, of course, but all too often could be seen bobbing about on the edge of our TV screens which recorded statesman-to-statesman encounters during critical moments in the Middle East and elsewhere. If he was frustrated, his habitual good manners concealed the fact.

He was always at a disadvantage because, although he could hold the dumbbell of his title high above his head, he had little real power.

EU premiers and foreign affairs ministers were also reluctant to share the limelight with him, still less give credit for anything �Europe� might have achieved separate from their own efforts.

There was, and for the time being remains, the structural difficulty: if he is the Lord High Poo-Bah of Foreign Policy, why is there a Commission department for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy supervised by the Austrian Benita Ferrero-Waldner?

It was not a happy arrangement for either of them and caused confusion in many non-EU capitals.

Meanwhile Solana has been quietly preparing the ground for a genuine EU foreign service: a special policy unit has been set up, recruitment of officials has already begun. Both moves are intended to create the embryo of a service which Solana was so keen to lead.

�There will be no Big Bang,� Solana said in a recent lecture. In other words, the parallel diplomatic service will be established in a stealthy, unspectacular way. In the end, though, it will have its own legal identity and its own budget to match.

�It will be one of the most important diplomatic machines in the world,� he told an elite audience in Brussels.

Without it, he said, the EU will risk losing any meaningful international influence in a world in which by 2030 only one in twelve human beings will be European.

�One of the main trends that define the age we live in, is power shift,� he said. �That is within states and between states. Within states: to various groups within society, to markets and even to individuals. Between states, from the West to the emerging powers.�

Even his enemies admit Solana, 67, has come a long, arduous political journey. As a younger politician he was dead against NATO but became its leader. He was opposed to the EEC (as the EU was called) and wound up its boss of foreign affairs.

This week he promised to �keep his boots on�. What next? Best to discover what still has his antipathy � and then watch out.