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Power struggle

April 26, 2010

European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton aims to win the backing of foreign ministers over the setting up of a European diplomatic service. There are disputes over how the organization will be run.

People shaking hands with a world map in the background
The service would represent a united EU policy globally

The European Union's foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton hopes to gain the support of foreign ministers over plans for a European diplomatic service.

Opinion is divided about how the organization, which would represent the EU around the globe, should be organized.

The External Action Service (EAS) is aimed at projecting a unified foreign policy on behalf of member states. Ministers were meeting to reach a decision at a meeting on Monday over questions about the organization's internal power structure.

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed for good news today," said Ashton. "Let's hope they can back the proposal and then we can move forward," Ashton told reporters as she arrived for talks with the foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had her fingers crossedImage: AP

Diplomats who were present told the German Press Agency dpa that member states were expected to give broad political backing to Ashton's draft proposals. A number of alterations have been made to an original plan that was first presented in March.

Guarantees as part of deal

Ministers are likely to ask for guarantees over the size of the EAS and the number of member states' diplomats that are to be included in it. Member states are also at odds with the European Commission over lines of command.

Individual countries want executive officials in the EAS to be responsible to Ashton, and not to the commission.

Some EU foreign ministers were optimistic of progress as they arrived for the talks.

"I hope that today will be an important day for the future of European diplomacy," said Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

"I am confident there will be an agreement, but I don't know what kind," said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

The European Parliament is likely to delay the launch of the several-thousands-strong diplomatic corps. Parliamentarians insist Ashton's deputy should be a political figure rather than a bureaucrat.

Although the parliament has no formal say on the decision, it can exercise vetoes on details.

Editor: Rob Turner