22 Sep 2016

The EU Special Representatives: A dwindling but resilient resource at the service of EU Foreign and Security Policy

Erwan Fouéré

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Author: Erwan Fouéré

Series: CEPS Policy No. 348   No of pp: 12 pp

Although reduced in number since the appointment of the first EU Special Representative twenty years ago, these senior diplomatic envoys continue to play a valuable role in the EU’s foreign and security policy. Yet the perception remains that they are appreciated more by the EU member states than by the EU institutional system where their status within the EEAS remains ambiguous. More needs to be done to ensure that they are effectively anchored in the EU institutional system and that maximum use is made of the added value they can bring to the EU foreign and security policy machinery.

The High Representative/Vice President’s intention to terminate the ‘double-hatted’ model, while perceived as a logical consequence of the Lisbon Treaty, is causing tensions with the EU member states that remain to be convinced on the viability of this approach. There is a danger that if not properly managed, it could undermine the element of continuity in the work undertaken by the EUSRs in the countries concerned.

The welcome focus in the EU Global Security Strategy on an enhanced role for the EU in peace-building will require a comprehensive action plan to ensure that both the EU delegations and the EUSRs, who are singled out in this context, have the resources and capacity to respond to this challenge.

The EU’s commitment to supporting the role of civil society in conflict situations remains haphazard, with the failure to engage with civil society in the ongoing political crisis in Macedonia being a classic example of how it should not be done. Will the commitment contained in the EU Global Security Strategy, in relation to pre-emptive diplomacy and conflict resolution, to interact with civil society be more than just ‘window dressing’ and make a real difference on the ground?

Erwan Fouéré is an Associate Senior Research Fellow at CEPS. He was the first to assume joint responsibilities of EU Special Representative and Head of Delegation in the EU External Service when he was appointed in this double capacity in Macedonia in 2005.