February 8, 2008
Overall responsibility of an EU Member State for relations with the Union institutions and the other 26 countries lies with the foreign minister. The foreign minister of the rotating presidency is president of the Council and chairs the General Affairs Council. Official communications between other ministries and their equivalents in other Member States are channelled through their respective foreign ministries. This is contrary to the very spirit of the Union, where other Member States do not fall within the same ‘foreign’ category as non-EU countries. This system is anachronistic and only inertia and vested interests inhibit reform.
The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty provides the opportunity for such reform. The EU foreign policy chief will chair the Foreign Affairs Council, which deals exclusively with non-EU countries. The General Affairs Council will be composed of foreign ministers and chaired by the Presidency’s foreign minister. Hitherto, EU foreign ministers have effectively acted as Europe ministers. The foreign ministers will have their own Council after the new treaty comes into force. Should not the General Affairs Council be composed of Europe Ministers with the necessary authority for coordination within their governments?
The ‘institutional’ role of Member State foreign ministries should cease. Individual ministries should work directly with their equivalents in other Member States with Europe Ministers merely coordinating.Author : Stanley Crossick