Relation to other EU institutions and bodies

The EU foreign policy is steered by the European Council and defined by the Foreign Affairs Council, which brings together the Foreign Ministers of the EU Member States every month. The High Representative chairs these meetings. Once policy is determined by the Council, it is up to the EEAS to carry it out.

The EEAS cooperates with the European Commission on many issues – adopting a comprehensive approach for the EU's foreign policy. This is the case, for example, when it comes to the EU's assistance to developing countries ('development aid'). Yet the Service is structurally and financially independent from the Commission.

Finally, the EEAS also works with the European Parliament. At least twice a year the High Representative reports on foreign policy and activities to the Parliament and answers questions from Members of the European Parliament. The EEAS assists the High Representative with this task.

The European Commission

The EEAS manages the EU's response to crises, has intelligence capabilities and cooperates with the Commission in areas which it shares competence with.

The European Commission managed to retain control over its competencies in aid (and its €6 billion a year budget), development, energy and enlargement. This gives the relevant Commissioners the lead in those areas and deputise for the HR when necessary.

Although the service will have cells for the Commission's areas, decisions will have to be made jointly by the HR and the College of Commissioners. However Ashton's draft plan for the EEAS included proposals for the EEAS to take responsibility for Neighbourhood Policy (currently assigned to the Enlargement Commissioner) and international development at least.

Under a compromise with the Commission, it was agreed development would be split, with the EEAS taking on three of the five planning cycles from the Commission. How this division of labour will work in practice only began being tested in 2012 as the 2014–2020 programming exercise began.

The following Directorates-General (DGs) and Commissioners are not being merged and decisions in these areas require approval from the college of Commissioners:

The Foreign Affairs Council

The Foreign Affairs Council is made up of European Union Member State Ministers responsible for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development. These Ministers attend monthly meetings to discuss foreign policy, trade, security, defence and development matters.

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini chairs the Foreign Affairs Council meetings, except for commercial policy issues - when the rotating Presidency takes over the chair. Federica Mogherini is also a Vice-President of the European Commission, ensuring the consistency and coordination of the EU's external action.

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The European Parliament

The European Parliament, the EU's only directly elected institution, also plays a role in the Union's foreign policy.

The European Parliament has supported the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and sought to extend its scope.

The High Representative regularly consults the Parliament on the principal aspects and choices of the CFSP and explains the policy's evolution. The European Parliament holds biannual debates on CFSP progress reports, asking questions and making recommendations to the Council or the High Representative. The Parliament's right to be informed was strengthened by the High Representative's declaration of political accountability in 2010.

The Parliament's budgetary authority

Along with the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament must approve the annual CFSP budget. The Parliament also helps shape the external financial instruments (the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, for example, and the Instrument for Stability) in trilateral negotiations with the Council and the Commission.

The Parliament scrutinises the EEAS, provides suggestions on structural issues and discusses questions with the High Representative and the EU Special Representatives (EUSRs) appointed for certain regions or issues. Parliamentary committees, which helped set up the EEAS, exchange views with the newly appointed Heads of Delegations.

The European Parliament also monitors the negotiations and implementation of international agreements; it must consent before the Council can conclude these agreements.

The European Parliament structures involved

Much of Parliament's work on CFSP is done in specialised committees:

  • the Committee on Foreign Affairs and its two subcommittees –
    • Security and Defence and
    • Human Rights,
  • the Committee on International Trade,
  • the Committee on Development.

These committees shape the CFSP through reports and opinions and serve as the Parliament's principal points of contact with global governance structures.

CFSP-related work is also undertaken by parliamentary delegations, which develop international contacts, especially through inter-parliamentary cooperation. There are currently 34 standing inter-parliamentary delegations.

The European Parliament's impact on the CFSP

The European Parliament has pushed for an enhanced role for the EEAS, the EU delegations and the EUSRs, as well as for a more coherent policy and more effective CFSP. The Parliament has also argued for greater coherence among the EU's political and financial instruments for external policies.

The European Parliament provides a platform for exchange among institutional and governmental policy-makers, as well as civil society, including think tanks and academics. Through its activities, the Parliament serves as a bridge between the EU institutions and citizens.