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European Parliament - EEAS: political agreement is a good result, say MEPs

The deal struck on the European External Action Service (EEAS) yesterday in Madrid lays the basis for a strong EU diplomatic service, Parliament’s negotiators told Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs on Tuesday. The service's Community identity will be strengthened and its political and budgetary accountability to Parliament is guaranteed.

Two of Parliament's EEAS negotiators – Elmar Brok (EPP, DE) and Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, IT) – briefed MEPs on the political agreement they reached on Monday with the High Representative, the Council and the Commission on the setting up of the service.

The agreement reached is on amendments to the proposal for a Council decision, on which Parliament was consulted, establishing the organisation and functioning of the EEAS. The negotiators also reached an agreement on two declarations by the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on the political accountability of the service and on the basic organisation of the EEAS central administration.

Commenting on the deal, Elmar Brok said "we have reached an agreement which doesn’t bind us under the legislative procedure but which is a good one. We now have to work on the prerequisites for a Council decision", adding that "whether my report can be endorsed before the summer depends very much on the groups' chairs". Mr Brok also said that on Wednesday he would propose a draft report based on the agreement reached at Monday's four-party meeting.

On the timetable, Mr Brok said that the Foreign Affairs Committee could discuss the report at the Strasbourg part-session (Monday 5 July) and vote on it on the morning of Tuesday 6 July. The plenary could endorse the report on Thursday 8 July. Changes to the Financial Regulation and the Staff Regulation would not be put to a vote before the summer break, he added.

The operational part of the EEAS budget will be integrated in the Commission's internal budget. To make this budget more transparent and to facilitate Parliament's scrutiny of the spending, the Commission has said it would provide Parliament with a document clearly accounting for the external action parts of the Commission budget. In addition, the EU's main missions, such as those in Afghanistan and Kosovo, would become budget lines of their own, thus further increasing transparency.

Even though the EEAS's administrative budget would constitute a separate, tenth, part of the EU budget, MEPs would, according to the agreement, be guaranteed the same right of scrutiny as for the Commission budget.

"The discharge procedure will be specific to this budget - it will not come under the general discharge of the Commission. This means that everything that so far was subject to the 'gentlemen's agreement' with Council [which said that MEPs should not amend the Council's budget]... will now be fully transparent", said Roberto Gualtieri.

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