New posts for more coherence

Stephen Calleya
The new President of the European Council is regarded as the individual who is supposed to bring further coherence to EU policy-making. As former Belgian Prime Minister, he is highly respected and was well received during his brief visit to Malta earlier this year. There is an assumption that his role will supersede the role previously held by the member state of the rotating presidency, but there is a great deal of ambiguity among public opinion about the exact extent to which the rotating presidency modality will be made redundant. The fact that the Spanish EU Presidency has adopted a more or less “business as usual” attitude when it comes to their presidency has not helped to clarify the precise role that the new President of the European Council is expected to play.
The new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is regarded as an important new actor that should provide a more coherent foreign policy perspective to the EU decision-making process. Criticism of Catherine Ashton in the international media has not been mirrored in the Maltese press. Most of the attention has focused on the policy platform that she is seeking to introduce in line with the Lisbon Treaty agenda with a particular focus on reform of the EU’s diplomatic service.
The establishment of the European External Action Service (EEAS) is regarded as a positive development as it should bring more coherence to the EU’s diplomatic representation globally. An issue of concern is the extent to which every EU member state will have sufficient representation in the future EEAS. Similar to other small states in the European Union, the major concern of Malta’s government is that a future EEAS should not be set up at the expense of small states being underrepresented in the new EEAS. Malta is thus lobbying to ensure that a significant number of diplomats from Malta are selected to also play a direct role in a future EEAS.
Malta would also like to see future EEAS diplomatic training provide a focus on issues pertaining to the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, which has provided post-graduate training to more than six hundred diplomats since opening its doors in 1990, has been identified as a venue where such training can take place.[1]
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) has not been widely discussed in Malta. The media and certain civil society spokespersons regularly refer to the importance of the EU addressing its democratic deficit. In this respect, if the ECI can offer a clear and transparent mechanism through which the voice of citizens of the EU can be heard, then it would be a welcome development.

[1] Hon. Dr. Tonio Borg, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta, speech, seminar on the Spanish Presidency of the EU and the Mediterranean, 18 March 2010.