EU Foreign Policy: Barroso’s Man in D.C.

Here’s the funniest bit from this EU Observer piece on the appointment of Joao Vale de Almeida as the EU’s new ambassador to the U.S.:

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, to whom Mr. de Almeida will report directly, praised his “significant experience,” “intellect” and “ability to work with all key actors in this important relationship.” (Emphasis added.)

The punchline here lies in the fact that prior to being parachuted into the EU’s external relations unit, de Almeida was EU Commission President Manuel Barroso’s chief of staff, and served as his personal envoy to the G-8 and G-20 summits. So unless Ashton has some sort of cellphone jamming device, it’s more than likely that de Almeida’s first call will still be heading Barroso’s way.

In all fairness to Ashton, the institutional apparatus for the EU’s External Action Service that is intended to direct these appointments elsewhere simply doesn’t exist yet. And part of why she faces a serious handicap in terms of maintaining an international profile is that she is directly charged to build it from the ground up.

Still, for now, the big beneficiary of the Lisbon Treaty in terms of representing the EU abroad seems to be Barroso. Until the EAS is up and running, he clearly has a leg up on member states in terms of placing his pawns. And EU President Herman Van Rompuy seems to be concentrating on the behind-the-scenes — and much-needed — mechanics of generating consensus at the EU Council.

None of this is irreversible, and of all the EU institutions, the EU parliament has shown the greatest appetite regarding its newfound powers under Lisbon. But it’s worth noting that the EU’s man in Washington is also Barroso’s man in Washington.