Strasbourg: The European Parliament on Thursday
gave the green light to the creation of Europe`s first
diplomatic corps aimed at giving the bloc a stronger and
unified voice in the global arena.
The European External Action Service will be headed by
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, who will oversee an
army of 6,000 officials, diplomats and experts scattered in
Brussels and embassies around the world.
"Europe needs the External Action Service to build a
stronger foreign policy," Ashton told the European Parliament
"We need an integrated platform to project European
values and interests around the world," she said.
"It is time to give ourselves the means to realise our
ambitions. It is time to get the right people in place to
start doing the necessary work."
The challenge Ashton faces was highlighted recently by
the separate visits announced by European foreign ministers to
the Gaza Strip after Israel decided to ease its blockade on
the Palestinian territory.
Five European foreign ministers have announced that
they would visit the strip run by the Islamist militant group
Hamas in late July. Days later, Ashton announced her own trip
which will take place early in mid-July.
British baroness Ashton was appointed to her post,
which was created in the EU`s Lisbon Treaty, in November 2009,
a choice which drew criticism due to her lack of experience in
the international stage.
The external action service was one of the main
innovations of the reforming Lisbon Treaty. It will back up
Ashton and help set up and coordinate Europe`s foreign and
She now faces the task of filling sought-after posts
in a union that includes 27 nations, juggling between the
interests of its oldest, powerful members and the smaller,
European MPs voted 549-78 in favour of the EEAS two
weeks after parliament signed a political agreement with other
EU institutions following tough negotiations.