What, therefore, is the point of an EU foreign ministry? Ashton opines that the Lisbon treaty ‘gives us new possibilities to make Europe better and more relevant for its citizens. It can also help us find a stronger and more coherent voice on the world stage. The reputation of the EU in the world is a good one, based on our strong values of freedom and democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights'. Much of that requires the mass suspension of disbelief, but I concede that the treaty presents an opportunity to augment the EU's international clout. Concerted unilateral action on an issue like Iran would provide that, but Ashton’s self-confessed ‘first priority’ is to build a diplomatic service. That’s right, more bureaucrats. She devotes two lengthy paragraphs to the subject.
‘My first priority will be to build the new diplomatic service that the Lisbon treaty foresees. The European External Action Service will be based in Brussels, with representations throughout the world. It should be a network that is the pride of Europe and the envy of the rest of the world, with the most talented people from all member states of the EU working in our common interest.
It should offer our citizens added value to what their countries already do, and give our partners around the world a trusted and reliable ally on European issues. It should be a foreign service for the 21st century.’
Employing a phalanx of EU diplomats when no standardised and encompassing EU foreign policy exists is Brechtian in its absurdity. Surely diplomats from members’ services could be seconded to promote EU action when required? The Lisbon treaty has not inaugurated change; it has enshrined continuity.