Germany's 'ideological' call to increase EU powers

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Germany's 'ideological' call to increase EU powers
« on: March 22, 2013, 10:07:52 PM »
Germany's 'ideological' call to increase EU powers
Germany is leading demands to vastly increase the power of the EU diplomatic service, headed by Baroness Ashton, in what one Conservative MEP has called an "ideological" move that would harm British interests.

Lady Ashton is the second-best paid female politician in the world Photo: EPA/JULIEN WARNAND
Andrew Rettman in Brussels
5:27PM GMT 17 Mar 2013

 Berlin has quietly circulated its ideas in Brussels in an informal paper dated Feb 1, seen exclusively by The Daily Telegraph. It is signed by 14 EU countries, including Italy, the Netherlands and Spain - but not Britain.

The paper says Lady Ashton should control the European Commission's "neighbourhood policy," which covers relations with 16 countries on the EU's eastern and southern rim.

The Baroness should handle negotiations of EU treaties with leading nations such as China and Russia, the paper says. It also calls for her to take "overall authority" on EU aid to African and Caribbean countries.

The Labour peer currently manages a budget worth the equivalent of ?420 million a year. If the German proposal goes through in full, it would balloon to more than ?8 billion a year.

The ideas are anathema to some Conservative politicians, who see them as part of wider plans to create a federal EU state.

"It's nothing to do with a practical assessment of what we need. It has a purely ideological motive on elevating the role of the EU," Geoffrey Van Orden, the Conservative MEP for the East of England, said.

"We're creating a monster that we won't be able to control," he added. "Britain needs to row back from this."

"We believe ? the EEAS [European External Action Service] should be further strengthened to ensure a coherent, comprehensive and integrated EU approach to external action," the paper says.

The document also recognises that Lady Ashton's institution is a mess in administrative terms and that she needs the help of new deputies to do her job.

"The processes and structure at senior management level should be reviewed with a view to ensuring clear reporting lines and division of tasks," it notes.

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, will discuss the plan with EU foreign ministers in Dublin on Friday.

Lady Ashton, the second-best paid female politician in the world, has in the past faced criticism for skipping most European Commission meetings because she says she is too busy elsewhere.

Her spokesman, Michael Mann, defended her performance, however.

"In just three years, the EEAS has gone from an idea on paper to a fully-functioning EU diplomatic service ? [It] runs smoothly and co-operates well with the [European] commission," he said.

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