EU Foreign Policy Roundup

Posted by William C. Fleeson

There's a lot of fresh news on the EU foreign policy front, so here's a roundup of salient headlines.

The European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU's new diplomatic agency set to launch December 1st, saw two of its top posts publicly announced, confirming long-running (and accurate) rumors on the candidates. Pierre Vimont, a French national and eminence grise of the transatlantic diplomatic community, will act as executive secretary general. David O'Sullivan, a European Commission veteran from Ireland, is to serve as chief operating officer.

Vimont is a former French ambassador to the United States and has also acted in diplomatic roles for the European Union. EUobserver reports that O'Sullivan "has previously run the European Commission's education and trade departments, was head of cabinet for former commission president Romano Prodi and was commission secretary general.

On the transatlantic side, both Vimont and O'Sullivan should bring diplomatic heft to the EU's dealings with the U.S.. Both are battle-tested policy professionals. Both speak perfect English (Vimont distinguishes himself from ex- and current French presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, neither of whom speaks English with much ease.)

If early EEAS naysayers chastised its head, Lady Catherine Ashton, as a "compromise candidate," the one-two punch of appointing Vimont and O'Sullivan may turn around the glass-half-empty outlook upon which some observers have insisted.

A coalition of far-right parties from throughout Europe convened Saturday in Vienna to organize a popular opposition movement against Turkey's accession to the EU.  The collected groups will seek to launch a European Citizen's Initiative, a practice by which EU citizens can gather one million signatures in a petition to force the EU institutions to consider converting their demands into legislation. In a strange shift from the usually anti-EU-integration stance of Europe's far-right, some parties demanded that Turkey be barred because otherwise it would spell the "end of the European Union."

In what Europeans may see as a troubling sign of the times, Europe's high place in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is poised to slip. Following a 'historic' meeting Saturday in South Korea, European countries such as Belgium and Holland will be pressured to concede places to the "BRIC" countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and other emerging world economies. The IMF's managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, had this to say about the Fund's changes and the greater symbolic paradigm shift:

"The ten biggest members of the Fund ... will be those who deserve to be the biggest members," he added, going on to describe how "the membership and quota of the membership are not really representing the importance and weight of the countries in the global economy."

Serbia has cleared a significant roadblock in its push to join the EU. Following a softened position on Kosovo, the EU rewarded Belgrade with an agreement to begin looking at its accession dossier. Yet the EU stipulated that it wanted redoubled cooperation with the International Criminal Court, especially in pursuing justice for Serbian war criminals such as Ratko Mladic.

"It's the start of the process," said Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency through December.