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EU parliament to arm-twist Ashton on appointments for the EEAS - 0 views

  • Two senior MEPs have indicated that the European Parliament will leverage its legal powers to make sure Catherine Ashton gets the "right balance" of top people in the diplomatic corps. Ms Ashton, the EU foreign relations chief, is getting ready to unveil her nominations for 31 heads of mission and deputy heads of mission for EU embassies abroad, as well as a further 80 senior diplomatic postings and the top 20-or-so administrative jobs in the European External Action Service (EEAS).
  • A parliament negotiator on the EEAS regulations, German centre-right MEP Elmar Brok, told EUobserver that another big chunk should go to European Commission candidates so that the EEAS becomes a genuine EU body instead of an inter-governmental one. "There needs to be a proper institutional balance. If all the posts come from the member states and the Council, then we will have a problem," he warned. He added that parliament aims to call around 10 out of the top diplomatic nominations for hearings: "If someone goes before the European Parliament and it is a total disaster, then it will be difficult for Ms Ashton to keep them."

24.09.10: Kosovo in New York - 0 views

  • After Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov took his turn among a succession of heads of state and government to have talks with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the start of the General Assembly’s new season, the UN’s news service said that Kosovo had topped the agenda, specifically the prospects for talks between Belgrade and Priština.Given hopes in diplomatic circles that on the sidelines of the General Assembly talkfest, an arrangement could be brokered to open negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, the topic of the Borissov-Ban discussions was hardly a surprise – especially given Bulgaria’s desire to take the lead in helping to get the Western Balkans on an even keel.
  • These developments all preceded what many hoped would be a turning point in New York – a scheduled September 23 meeting between EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and  Tadić, at which – or so it was hoped – there would be some agreement on starting an EU-brokered set of talks between Belgrade and Priština, including a starting date for the dialogue.On September 20, Ashton met Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaçi. Media in Priština said that Thaçi had told Ashton that Kosovo was prepared to talk to Serbia about matters of mutual interest, but with the issues of Kosovo’s status decidedly off the agenda.

04.10.10: Ashton calls off EU ambassador hearings - 0 views

  • EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has called off plans for EU ambassadors to hold hearings in the European Parliament in a serious rift with MEPs over the set-up of the European External Action Service (EEAS).

    Ms Ashton announced the move late on Monday (4 October) on the eve of the first hearing with the new EU envoy to Japan, Austrian diplomat Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, which was due to have taken place in the parliament's foreign affairs committee on Tuesday morning.

    The decision comes after MEPs opted to hold the hearings in public and before the nominees have been formally installed in their posts, raising the risk that if one of them tripped up in questioning it could cost them their new job.


13.10.10: MEPs to oversee details of Ashton spending - 0 views

    The European Parliament has won the right to look into the nitty gritty of spending in foreign delegations in the EU's new diplomatic service amid mild alarm over rising costs. The provisional agreement was put together at an informal meeting between MEPs, EU officials and member states on Monday (11 October) and represents an easing of tensions between the assembly and Catherine Ashton's office after a dispute over diplomatic appointments last week.

20.10.10: Full speed ahead on EU diplomatic corps after Strasbourg vote - 0 views

  • The European Parliament on Wednesday (20 October) adopted by a crushing majority new budgetary and staff regulations for the European External Action Service (EEAS), clearing the last legal hurdle for the launch of the new institution. "It's a historic vote. We're all one happy family now," an official in the entourage of EEAS chief Catherine Ashton told EUobserver.
  • Ms Ashton is also close to a compromise with the parliament's foreign affairs committee on hearings for new EEAS ambassadors. The diplomats are likely to face parliament questions in early December, after receiving full accreditation from their host countries. Ms Ashton wants the hearings to be held for the most part behind closed doors. Following the vote on Wednesday, the foreign affairs MEPs have little leverage to use against her. Details of the parliament vote on three separate EEAS reports saw the compromise deal get through by over 500 votes in each case against no more than 51. The budget-and-staff package envisages detailed parliamentary oversight on EEAS hiring and firing of diplomats in foreign missions but not on EU member states' spending of the €3-billion-a-year European Development Fund or on military missions. It stipulates an "appropriate and meaningful presence of nationals from all the member states" but not quota-type targets for nationals from new EU countries, as called for by Polish centre-right MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, who tried to put a positive spin on developments in an emailed statement on the day.

21.10.10: EEAS to be born on Lisbon Treaty anniversary - 0 views

  • In the presence of a smiling Catherine Ashton, the European Parliament yesterday (20 October) approved by an overwhelming majority the last three legislative texts required to launch the European External Action Service (EEAS) on 1 December 2010, the day of the first anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty.
  • The Parliament in Strasbourg passed the Staff Regulation, the Financial Regulation and the EEAS 2010 budget, clearing the way for High Representative Catherine Ashton to appoint the senior managerial team of the new EU diplomatic service. The appointment of the dozen high officials is expected to facilitate the selection of candidates for some 80 middle-management positions, which are also up for grabs in a first wave of recruitment. However, the selection process so far has left a bitter after-taste, with many capitals strongly pushing for their candidates in the hope of gaining influence in the new body from the first day. When fully operational, the EEAS is expected to provide attractive employment to some 6,000 people worldwide. The ambassador of a member country, who asked not to be named, told EurActiv the EEAS was becoming "the home of the high-flying protégés of governments in power".

18.11.10: Ashton and not the European Parliament to appoint EU envoys - 0 views

  • EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has won a minor battle with the European Parliament over the issue of whether MEPs' hearings with new EU ambassadors should be held in public or behind closed doors. "Mr Albertini has agreed that all the hearings will be in camera. We are now working out the timing with the Afet committee and we hope that these hearings will take place as soon as possible," Ms Ashton's spokesman, Darren Ennis, told EUobserver on Thursday (18 November), referring to Italian centre-right MEP Gabriele Albertini, who heads-up the assembly's foreign affairs body.
  • "We hope obviously the members of the committee respect the rules that have been agreed. These are not Congressional-style hearings. She is the appointing authority. These people have been appointed by the high representative/vice president [Ms Ashton] and they will take up their posts - that is not in question," he added. EUobserver understands that the hearings are to take place in late November and early December and are to involve the new EU envoys to China, Georgia, Japan, Lebanon and Pakistan. Any hearings with future EEAS envoys are to follow the same format.

10.12.10: EEAS and human rights - Ashton to face MEPs' questions - 0 views

  • EU high representative for foreign affairs Cathy Ashton is to face tough questions from MEPs next Wednesday (15 December) over her strategy to promote European human rights values through the bloc's new external action service. On the same day as Norway's Nobel Prize committee handed this year's prestigious award to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in absentia, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said he was keen to hear how Ms Ashton intended to work in the field.
  • "Next Wednesday in Strasbourg we are expecting to hear from Baroness Ashton how she intends to implement the commitments she made on this matter during the negotiations leading up to the establishment of the EEAS," he said.

16.03.09: Bosnia's irresponsible politicians drive Auntie EU crazy - 0 views

  • Take Bosnia-Herzegovina, where EU foreign ministers today named Valentin Inzko, a high-ranking Austrian diplomat, as the bloc’s new Special Representative. Inzko will wear two hats - he was named the world’s High Representative for Bosnia last week. But it will be something of a miracle if he makes any progress towards bringing the Bosnian state off the international life support machine on which it has depended since the end of the 1992-95 civil war. Insofar as the EU has any idea what to do, it seems to believe that the mutual suspicions that poison relations between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs (and, to some extent, both communities’ relations with Bosnian Croats) will gradually disappear under the lure of eventual EU membership for the country. But as an excellent new report by the International Crisis Group points out, Bosnia is quite unlike the other former communist states to which the EU has - often successfully - applied this soothing strategy.

28.05.09: EU diplomat: Western Balkans still burdened by legacy of war - 0 views

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina is yet to reach internal political consensus on its EU path, the head of the European Commission's delegation to the country, Ambassador Dimitris Kourkoulas, told EurActiv in an interview.
  • Looking at other Western Balkan countries, could we say that the others are advancing, albeit at different speeds, while there is little or no movement from Bosnia?  I wouldn't say there is no movement forward, but it is very slow, and what is still missing is a consensus among all political forces to keep the political integration away from political infighting. This is what candidate countries in the recent past, including Bulgaria and Romania, have done. There had been an agreement between all political forces to have their differences, but to agree on European integration. This has not happened yet in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 
  • Recently, high-ranking Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko was appointed as high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Wasn't this a hint that the international presence will still be needed in the years to come?  Mr. Inzko is the high representative of the international community, but at the same time, he is the EU special representative. He enjoys the full support of the members of the Peace Implementation Council. We had a joint visit of US Vice-President Joe Biden and EU High representative Javier Solana, which was also a very strong indication that we are on the same line and our common aim is to give full ownership to the country, but once the conditions are met. We cannot take the risk of doing it in a premature way. 

EU Commissioner Warns Bosnia That Accession Chances Are At Stake - 0 views

  • The European Union's Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has told the visiting foreign minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sven Alkalaj, that the divided country must consolidate its central authorities or risk damaging its chances of one day joining the bloc.In particular, the EU wants Bosnia to prepare the ground for the bloc to take over the guidance of the country from the international community's Office of the High Representative (OHR), with Rehn linking the need for reforms to visa-free travel for Bosnians in the EU."The [European] Commission is committed to the transition from OHR to a reinforced EU presence," Rehn said on May 15, "and I reiterated to Foreign Minister Alkalaj that such a transition is indeed essential for Bosnia-Herzegovina's [EU] candidate status some time in the future."The current high representative is an Austrian diplomat, Valentin Inzko, who -- Brussels hopes -- will ease the transition in the run-up to the 2010 elections.

24.04.09: Bosnia believes in EU membership by 2015 - 0 views

  • Despite its many internal problems, Bosnia and Herzegovina could join the EU by 2015, the country's foreign minister has said, adding that he expects Nato accession to materialise even earlier. "For Bosnia and Herzegovina it will take at least four, five years to get there [achieve EU membership] …If it's not 2013-2014, maybe 2015," Bosnian foreign minister Sven Alkalaj told a group of journalists in Sarajevo on Thursday (23 April).
  • Bosnia's foreign minister remained optimistic, however, stressing that Sarajevo hopes to file its application for EU membership this autumn. "It will very much depend on us and when we are ready to join the EU. I think there won't be a reason for any further disturbances," Mr Alkalaj said. According to him, Bosnia's membership of Nato is even closer in time than that of the EU, as "the path to Nato is very much advanced."
  • Mr Alkalaj acknowledged Bosnia had serious difficulties advancing with its key constitutional reform, and added that this is unlikely to change before the next elections in the country in 2010. The reform is currently blocked by Republika Srpska insisting on keeping a high degree of autonomy, while the federation pushes for a stronger centralised state. But although this issue should be solved before Bosnia becomes an EU member, it should not hinder the accession process itself, the minister argued. The international presence in the country in the form of an EU mission and international envoy with strong governing powers is not incompatible with Bosnia becoming an EU candidate either, he said. Additionally, "the role of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) is definitely diminishing, it's a matter of months I would say for closing it. I don't see it beyond June 2010," Mr Alkalaj pointed out.

23.06.09: EU delivers fresh warning to Bosnia - 0 views

  • Bosnian leaders should improve the political climate in their country and bring a halt to their inflammatory rhetoric or they risk slowing down Bosnia's European Union integration, both the EU and NATO said in a new warning to Sarajevo on Monday (22 June).
  • "The Council [EU member states] expressed concern at the unconstructive political atmosphere and the recent actions challenging the Dayton Peace Agreement. The Council called upon all the political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina to refrain from nationalist rhetoric, and genuinely focus on bringing forward the necessary reform agenda in the general interest of the country and its citizens," EU foreign ministers gathered in Luxembourg said on 15 June. The ministers also re-affirmed the EU's commitment to a stronger role in Bosnia and said the transition from the Office of the High Representative to a re-inforced EU presence "could be within reach in the months ahead."

18.12.09: Spain vows to take backstage role as EU President - 1 views

  • Spain vowed to take a backstage role during its stint as holder of the six-month rotating EU Presidency, saying the frontmen will be Herman Van Rompuy, the EU's first permanent President, and Catherine Ashton, the new High Representative for foreign affairs.

25.05.10: Bosnia tensions grow ahead of Balkan summit | EurActiv - 0 views

  • Officials from Bosnia and Herzegovina have traded accusations with representatives of the international community, who have been helping to manage the country since the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement. The development came just days ahead of a Western Balkans summit in Sarajevo on 2 June, intended to reaffirm the region's EU membership prospects.
  • Bosnian Prime Minister Nikola Spiric has written to the UN accusing the international community's envoy of destabilising his country, the local press reported on 23 May.Spiric urged United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to remove the international community's high representative in Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, who has the power to pass laws and sack officials in the country's two semi-autonomous entities, AFP reported."Continuing foreign intervention in local political issues is destabilising and undermines the creation of a consensus [...] as well as reform efforts," the Bosnian Serb leader is quoted as saying.The Office of the High Representative (OHR) "should be closed in order to enable Bosnian political leaders to achieve legitimate progress," he said, saying that Inzko, an Austian diplomat, was "contributing to non-functional governance in Bosnia".In return, Inzko blamed leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina for what he called a "deterioration" of political dialogue.

France breaks ranks on Libya, dwarfs EU's Ashton | EurActiv - 0 views

  • France broke ranks with its European partners yesterday (10 March) by becoming the first country to recognise Libya's opposition and by deciding to "explore the possibility" of carrying out targeted bombings in the civil war-torn country. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton finds herself pushed onto the sidelines as EU leaders flock to Brussels for a crisis summit.
  • According to the EU Treaties, the bloc's Common Foreign and Security Policy is an area of "shared competence" between member countries and the Union. In an effort to ensure greater coordination and consistency in EU foreign policy, the Treaty of Lisbon created Catherine Ashton's post. Ashton is in charge of implementing the agreed common positions of the EU. It appears, however, that there is no obstacle preventing one member country from breaking free from positions that have already been agreed, as illustrated by France in the Libya case.

22.10.09: EU and US fail to break Bosnia deadlock - 0 views

  • A joint EU-US mediation effort aimed at ending years of political deadlock in Bosnia-Herzegovina ended on Wednesday (21 October) with no agreement on giving the central government a stronger role over the semi-independent Serbian and Muslim-Croat entities. The talks were spearheaded by Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, who used to be the first international high representative in Bosnia after the 1992-1995 war and is now chairing the EU presidency.
  • Despite wanting to see the office's powers downgraded, Mr Dodik strongly rejected the legislative package put forward by the EU-US mediators, saying it risked diluting the power of Republika Srpska. In the past years, he had repeatedly called for a referendum on separating from the Bosnian federation. As for the Bosniaks and Croats, they rejected the proposals for not going far enough in strengthening the state institutions. Under the 1995 Dayton peace accords, two separate entities were created - the Bosnian-Croat federation and Republika Srpska - linked by a common parliament, a three-member presidency and a council of ministers. However, the division of powers remains unclear, especially with the office of the international representative in place, and each side interprets it the way it suits best its own interests.

20.10.09: Talks try to end Bosnian deadlock - 0 views

  • Leaders of Bosnia's divided communities are meeting to try to end years of political stalemate and reduce the danger of renewed conflict.European Union and United States representatives are mediating the talks in Sarajevo. The aim is to bring in constitutional reform and prepare Bosnia for eventual EU and NATO membership. But the Bosnian Serbs strongly oppose any moves that would jeopardise their desire for more autonomy.
  • The high representative in Bosnia is an international figure with considerable domestic power. The current incumbent, Valentin Inzko, has described the situation in the country as serious. "Bosnia is in a state of paralysis," he told the BBC. "Things are not moving at the moment. And I deeply regret all this nationalist rhetoric. It's not helpful, it's destructive and many, many wars have started with bad rhetoric. So we should really avoid it."
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