EU Foreign Policy at a Crossroads

BRUSSELS -- Since the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on Dec. 1, 2009, the European Union's foreign policy has taken the first steps toward an institutional restructuring. Lisbon introduced a permanent president of the European Council as well as the post of high representative (HR) for foreign affairs, and established a European foreign service corps known as the European Action Service (EAS).

The new positions were meant to establish more recognizable representatives of the EU in the international arena. But the relatively low profile of former Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy and Britain's Catherine Ashton since their election to the posts of president and HR, respectively, suggests that member states are not keen to empower the newly created institutions. The same seems to hold for the ongoing process of conceiving and populating the EAS, with member states lining up key positions for their own national diplomats, while leaving secondary posts to supranational European Commission officials.

According to many observers, including commission officials, the distribution of power will remain at an intergovernmental level in spite of the reforms advanced by Lisbon. So any analysis of the EU's foreign policy will still require examining the member states' interests in the international arena.

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