Britain complains of EU's diplomatic 'competence creep'

23rd May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain drew a line Monday over how much power EU states should cede to Brussels as London accused the nascent European Union foreign service of encroaching on its diplomatic responsibilities abroad.

With Britain already in battle mode with Brussels over the EU budget, British minister for Europe David Lidington said London has sent out instructions to its embassies asking them to be "vigilant about any risk of competence creep" by EU delegations.

In Brussels for a meeting of EU foreign ministers, he accused EU missions "in particular parts of the world" of pushing for an "enhanced leadership role" or asserting that they have "the right to speak on behalf of member states."

"We push back very hard whenever we have evidence of that happening," he told reporters, without providing specific examples.

The European External Action Service, headed by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, officially launched this year as part of a vast effort by the 27-nation bloc to speak on the world stage with one voice.

But Lidington complained that EEAS officials as well some EU states want the service to have a greater role in consular matters that should remain firmly in the hands of national governments.

"There is a sort of pressure from some parts of the EU machine to push competence and we're very keen to make sure it's pushed back and clear lines are drawn," he said.

While the EEAS's role should be "defined and limited," he said it could play key roles in developing global partnerships with emerging powers like China, spurring change in the Arab world and working on conflict resolution.

© 2011 AFP

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