The European Union's foreign affairs chief will hold important powers over the bloc's aid budget if she wins the support of member states and the European Parliament for her proposal for an EU diplomatic corps.
Briton Catherine Ashton's blueprint for creating an External Action Service, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters after it was backed by the EU executive, puts her in charge of the three main areas of development assistance to countries and regions.
Securing control of these strategic aid areas is a success for Ashton because she had faced resistance from Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs to ceding control of the multi-billion euro EU development budget.
The separate humanitarian aid budget, and assistance for the EU's eastern neighbours, would remain in the hands of Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva and enlargement chief Stefan Fuele, Ashton's colleagues at the executive European Commission.
Ashton said she would be responsible for drawing up aid strategy in consultation with the development and enlargement commissioners and they would be responsible for implementation.
"It's the perfect solution of synergy between what the Commission is doing and the role of the commissioners and the role of the External Action Service," she said.
Ashton has been hoping to secure final approval for her plan by the end of April, but diplomats say it will be hard to meet the target because she could face resistance from some of the 27 member states and in the European Parliament.
Bid for more EU influence
The EU diplomatic corps was conceived as part of the EU's Lisbon reform treaty, which was approved last year and is intended to increase the influence of a bloc that represents more than 500 million people.
It will have as many as 3,000 diplomats driving aid and trade policies worldwide.
Ashton said she hoped it would be possible to get the swift agreement of the EU members states and the parliament.
"It's in everybody's interest to have the European Action Service up and running as soon as possible," she said.
"We have to adapt to a world of growing complexity and fundamental power shifts. We can only punch our weight if we are able to bring together all the instruments, economic, political, development, and security, crisis management and long-term engagement in support of a single political strategy."
Ashton's blueprint calls for a diplomatic corps that will be managed by a powerful secretary general and two deputies, a model that has been criticised by senior parliamentarians as being too closely modelled on the French diplomatic service.
"This is completely and utterly untrue -- if you look around Europe, there are other foreign ministries that are made up like that," said an EU official who declined to be identified.
Ashton won the Commission's approval despite facing criticism from some member states over a hesitant start since she took office late last year. Supporters says she has delivered the draft a week ahead of schedule despite resistance.
However, Ashton suffered a blow on Thursday when her chief spokesman Lutz Guellner announced he planned to move to another position in the Commission at the end of the month.
Another spokesman for Ashton said she was disappointed but understood and respected his decision.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 25 Mart 2010, 21:36