As the negotiations on the Constitution formally kicked off again on Monday, behind the scenes talks got underway aimed at introducing the new post of EU foreign minister ahead of original plans.
Although the new position is not foreseen until 2009 when the new institutional changes for the European Commission are scheduled to come into force, ways are being examined to introduce the post of EU foreign minister during the next commission term, which begins in November. Referring to the difficulties involved with introducing the post earlier, a Commission official remarked that "certainly there are some people who would like it to be possible." According to media reports, the EU's High Representative Javier Solana is said to be pushing to get the job and to have it introduced early. He is allegedly set to raise the issue at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday in Brussels. This will have big political and legal repercussions for other elements of the Constitution, which are also up for discussion.
The new foreign minister post would combine the diplomatic role of Solana with external relations Commissioner Chris Patten, who implements the EU's aid programs. In addition, the office would serve as vice-president of the European Commission and chair of the foreign affairs council. The new EU foreign minister would be the single representative for the EU in foreign affairs -- in contrast to today, where Solana is also flanked by the foreign ministers of the country holding the rotating six-month presidency.