The EU’s appointment of João Vale de Almeida as the new EU Ambassador to Washington confirms European Commission president José Manuel Barroso’s tightening grip on Brussels’ foreign policy levers.
Virtually-unknown on the international stage, Vale de Almeida has been Barroso’s head of cabinet for the past five years, and intimately associated with the creation of the EU’s new diplomatic corps, the European External Action Service (EEAS). The fact that someone so closely associated with the set-up of this new diplomatic corps should land such a plum role in it, would be considered a conflict of interest by any other organization, save the EU.
Vale de Almeida has all the essential qualifications that Brussels requires: he is a quintessential EU bureaucrat, whose advancement of ever-closer-union is unquestionable. And his loyalty to the unelected and unaccountable European Commission, especially Barroso, is certain.
However, foreign policymaking should now be the purview of the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton, who should answer directly to the member states through the European Council. The British Government repeatedly claimed that the Lisbon Treaty was nothing more than a tidying-up exercise, and that foreign policy would not be supranationalized.
In less than three months, the Lisbon Treaty has made a farce of the claim that foreign policy remains the responsibility of member states. Ashton herself is a Vice-President of the European Commission and has chosen to base herself in the Commission’s Berlaymont building. Her less than stellar resume and awkward performance before the European Parliamentary confirmation hearings has left her completely reliant on Commission bureaucrats to guide the development of the EEAS and the Common Foreign and Security Policy, ensuring that power goes further toward Brussels, and further away from member states. And with Vale de Almeida’s appointment, there is little doubt that arch-federalist Barroso will tighten his stealthy control over the EU’s foreign policy making machine.