The Role of the EU Delegation

What do Delegations do?

The European Commission (EC) is the executive body of the European Union (EU). The Delegations of the External Service, although hierarchically a part of the EU structure, in practice serve EU interests as a whole in 140 countries throughout the world, and at five centres of international organisations (OECD, OSCE, UN, WTO) by:

  1. presenting, explaining and implementing EU policy;
  2. analysing and reporting on the policies and developments of the countries to which they are accredited; and
  3. conducting negotiations in accordance with a given mandate.

This means that the Delegations exercise powers conferred by the treaty on the European Community, in third countries, by promoting the Community’s interests as embodied in the common policies, chiefly the common commercial policy, but also many others, including the agricultural, fisheries, environmental, transport and health and safety policies. It also means involvement in areas such as Justice and Home Affairs, in which the European Community does not have exclusive powers.

In addition, the Delegations play a key role in the implementation of external assistance. This is a role that has been expand very greatly as a consequence of the devolution policy decided by the Commission in 2000 in order to provide EU external assistance more rapidly and more efficiently.

This policy will be carried out in stages over the period 2001-2004. Increasingly, not only are Delegations now more closely involved in programming, but they manage projects directly from start to finish, in close contact with the EuropeAid Co-Operation Office and host country authorities, within the framework of rules set in Brussels. In concert with the EU Presidency, the delegations also take the lead in on-the-spot co-ordination of the implementation of all EU assistance, multi-lateral and bi-lateral, to increase synergy and - not to be forgotten - EU visibility. Reflecting the needs of each individual country and region, EuropeAid assistance covers a panoply of target areas ranging from humanitarian assistance, support for democracy and human rights as well as independent media, to mine clearance and reconstruction, institution and capacity building, to traditional development aid. In the case of Afghanistan, the main EU priorities are defined in the National Indicative Programme pdf - 168 KB [168 KB] (NIP) and in the Country Strategy Paper pdf - 333 KB [333 KB] (CSP).

Delegations also play an increasing role in the conduct of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) , providing regular political analysis, conducting evaluations jointly with Member State Embassies and contributing to the policy making process.

Finally, Delegations provide support and assistance as necessary to the other institutions and actors of the EU, including:

  • the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy , who can rely on their logistical support when on mission and to whom all their policy reports are copied;
  • the European Parliament , in that they help, for example, to arrange programmes for and accompany visiting delegations and Committees where necessary and - in agreement with Commission headquarters - Heads of Delegation may contact the Foreign Affairs Committee and other Committees of the Parliament, when they are back at headquarters, in order to report on recent developments in their host countries and the development of EU policy and programmes;
  • the EU Presidency, with Heads of Delegation regularly taking part in Troika démarches, and assisting the Presidency in other ways.

In all these areas, Delegations serve an increasingly important information function as well, providing background and updates on European integration and EU policies to host governments and administrations, media, academia, business circles and civil society.

The main partners of Delegations in Headquarters are the Directorates General most involved in foreign affairs, i.e. DG External Relations , DG Development , DG Enlargement , DG Trade , EuropeAid Co-Operation Office , and the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) . However, in their service of the EC, the Delegations serve the whole institution and not just the so-called RELEX family .