The creation of a new EU diplomatic service could start as early as the autumn if the EU Constitution is agreed by member states next week.
Governments have agreed that in order for the new foreign minister to have a well-functioning back-up service by the time the post comes into being, preparations have to start straight away. If the Constitution is finalized by EU leaders on June 17 and 18, it will not come into force until at least 2006 - but it is set to be signed in the early autumn. Directly after this, the machinery surrounding the foreign minister post, which will essentially be an EU diplomatic service made up of civil servants from both the member states and the European Commission delegations, will be put into place. Dutch EU ambassador Tom de Bruijn said earlier this week that his country's EU Presidency, which starts on July 1, will immediately begin the "practical work" to prepare the entry into force of the treaty. (EUobserver.com)