The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

If you not change browser settings, you agree to it. Learn more

I understand

Cookies are a technology which we use to provide you with tailored information on our website. A cookie is a piece of code that is sent to your internet browser and is stored on your system.

Please see below for a list of cookies this website uses:

Cookie name: _utma, _utmb, _utmc, _utmz

Purpose: Google Analytics cookies. Google Analytics is software that lets us analyse how visitors use our site. We use this information to improve our website and provide the best experience to visitors.

Function: These cookies collect data in an anonymous form. Please see Google's privacy policy for further information. To opt out of these cookies, please visit Google's website.

Cookie name: Sitecore

Purpose: Stores information, such as language and regional preferences, that our content management system (the system we use to update our website) relies on to function.

Function: This is a session cookie and will be destroyed when you close your browser. This cookie is essential for our website to function.

Cookie name: ASP.net_session

Purpose: Allows the website to save your session state across different pages. For example, if you have completed a survey, the website will remember that you have done so and will not ask you to complete it again when you view another page on the website.

Function: This is a session cookie and will be destroyed when you close your browser. This cookie is essential for our website to function.

Cookie name: website#sc_wede

Purpose: Indicates whether the user's browser supports inline editing of content. This indicates whether our content management system will work for our website administrators in their internet browsers.

Function: This is a session cookie and will be destroyed when you close your browser. This cookie is essential for our website to function.

Cookie name: redirected

Purpose: Remembers when the site forwards you from one page to another, so you can return to the first page. For example, go back to the home page after viewing a special 'splash' page.

Function: This is a session cookie, which your browser will destroy when it shuts down. The website needs this cookie to function.

Cookie name: tccookiesprefs

Purpose: Remembers when you respond to the site cookie policy, so you do not see the cookie preferences notice on every page.

Function: If you choose to remember your preference with a temporary cookie, your browser will remove it when you shut it down, otherwise the cookie will be stored for about a year.

Cookie name: _ga

Purpose: Additional Google Analytics cookie. Google Analytics is software that lets us analyse how visitors use our site. We use this information to improve our website and provide the best experience to visitors.

Function: These cookies collect data in an anonymous form. Please see Google's privacy policy for further information.

Cookie name: SC_ANALYTICS_GLOBAL_COOKIE, SC_ANALYTICS_SESSION_COOKIE

Purpose: Sitecore Analytics is software that lets us analyse how visitors use our site. We use this information to improve our website and provide the best experience to visitors.

Function: These cookies collect data in an anonymous form. When you close your browser, it will delete the 'session' cookie; it will keep the 'global' cookie for about one year.

Facebook cookies

We use Facebook 'Like' buttons to share site feedback. For further information, see Facebook's cookie policy page.

Twitter cookies

We use Twitter 'Tweet' buttons to share site feedback. For further information, see Twitter's privacy statement.

YouTube cookies

We embed videos from our official YouTube channel. YouTube uses cookies to help maintain the integrity of video statistics, prevent fraud and to improve their site experience. If you view a video, YouTube may set cookies on your computer once you click on the video player.

Cookies pop-up

When you close the cookies pop-up box by clicking "OK", a permanent cookie will be set on your machine. This will remember your preference so that the pop-up doesn't display across any pages whenever you visit the website.

Opting out/removing cookies

To opt out of Google Analytics cookies, please visit Google’s website.

You can also control what cookies you accept through your internet browser. For details on how to do this, please visit aboutcookies.org. Please note that by deleting our cookies or disabling future cookies you may not be able to access certain areas or features of our website.

mailing list
donate now
join now
shop

The EU's new army of diplomats

The Rt Hon. Lord Lamont of Lerwick

Lord Lamont

The Prime Minister recently professed himself shocked at waste in the European Union. In particular, he was incensed by an EU-funded colouring book portraying the daily lives of 'Mr and Mrs MEP'. It is appalling, certainly, but far from unusual. The propaganda that comes out of Brussels has long been full of such idiocies. Some may remember Captain Euro, a cartoon superhero who won sporting events for the honour of the single currency. But if the Prime Minister was looking for truly conspicuous examples of waste, he might turn his attention to the EU's diplomatic service.

The European External Action Service was an important institutional innovation brought about by the Lisbon Treaty and - for passionate Europeans - a crucial step­ping stone towards the creation of a common EU foreign policy. Article 27 of the Treaty of European Union states that the EEAS is 'to assist the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs' (now Cathy Ashton) 'in conducting the Union's common Foreign and Security Policy'. This is in spite of other provisions in the treaty that state that foreign policy is still the prerogative of member states.

At the time of Lisbon, no one was quite sure how things would develop. Presumably 'a common foreign policy' would evolve over time on a voluntary basis. But in the two years since the EEAS was launched, it has sprung into life with astonishing speed. The EU has developed an extensive (but little-known) worldwide network of embassies, each Head of Delegation accorded full ambassadorial status and the staff full diplomatic privileges and immunities. There are EU embassies in 140 different countries, all generously staffed; in Mozambique there are 32 personnel, Uruguay 30 and Papua New Guinea 37.

Warm islands with agreeable beaches are not neglected by Brussels. Its delegation in Barbados has 44 staff members. The EU is represented in 11 Pacific Island countries, four overseas territories by the delegation in Fiji. The delegation is credited to Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Marshall Islands, Tonga, French Polynesia, Pitcairn and several other territories. There is also a separate delegation in Papua New Guinea with two sub-offices in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. It all adds up to a foreign service 3,400 strong - more than 1,400 staff in Brussels and more than 1,900 abroad: a remark­ able number of people doing political work of an elusive kind. The EU as a large aid budget and Commission staff (another 3,400 in the delegations) involved in administering aid programmes, making a staggering total in the delegations of over 5,400.

In addition to 140 ambassadors, there are a dozen 'Special Representatives' to deal with some of the world's more difficult hotspots. There are EU Special Representatives for the Middle East peace process, the African Union, the South Caucasus, the Horn of Africa, Sudan, Kosovo, Central Asia ,Afghanistan and a new Special Representative, inevitably, for Human Rights and Climate Change. Several of these SRs are paid more than the Secretary General of the United Nations.

A Foreign Office minister, when looking at the salaries, thought them surprisingly modest until it was pointed out that be had been given the monthly figures. In general, EEAS salaries are generous compared with national diplomatic services, and the EU diplomats generally pay less tax. According to one report, the EU's diplomatic corps boasts more than 500 chauffeurs, one of whom last year earned more than £60,000. It is not unknown for chauffeur s to be asked to drive from Brussels to countries such as Turkey to ferry around visiting diplomats.

When the EEAS was set up, it was meant to be 'cost-neutral' - financed by transfer­ ring resources and staff from elsewhere. Things have not quite worked out that way. The budget was €464 million two years ago, and has grown to €509 million this year. This 10 per cent rise contrasts with a 30 per cent cut in the budget of our Foreign Office budget over the same period. All over Europe, in fact, national diplomatic services are being cut back and austerity measures forced through.

The puzzle is, what do these embassies do that is not being done by embassies of individual members? What can the EU embassy in Moscow do that the German, French, Italian ones cannot? Does the EU have some interest separate from that of its members? And if not, why is it spending so much of other people's money?

I once put this question to the EU's ambassador to China. He replied: 'We will major on human rights and climate change.' An interesting strategy. Are the Chinese really going to pay attention to an ambassador whose remit is largely human rights? And need­ less to say, the EU is to have a special roving representative on human rights. Some say the EU embassies should provide consular services to protect EU citizens. The Foreign Office might well be pleased to get rid of British citizens rushing for help to our embassies. But it is difficult to believe that EU embassies could protect British or Belgian citizens over­ seas better than their own.

Another justification advanced is that Brussels needs to see 'trade in a political context'. But that too can be done either by national embassies or simply by reading news­ papers. We can all work out why Ecuador is concerned with bananas, Cuba with sugar and Colombia with coffee. The EU does have a competence in trade policy - but not in trade promotion .You don 't need 140 embassies around the world for trade policy.

The EEAS is supposed to answer a question attributed to Henry Kissinger :'Who do I call if I want to call Europe?' He is not actually on record saying this, which is not surprising as it's a ludicrous question. He has no need to 'call Europe' because there is no single European foreign policy. On all decisive matters in recent times - the war in Iraq, arming the rebels in Syria, relations with Russia , action in Libya, policy to Cuba, Kosovo and Macedonia -there has been no single European policy. When there was a vote on Palestinian representation at the UN, the EU's vote split three ways.

There is a case for Europe having a few offices in strategic countries. But it does not need 140 embassies and 500 limousines. They exist for the same reason that the EU has an anthem, a currency and a flag, and wants an army. It is a self-aggrandising EU vanity project which should be dismantled at the same time that 'Mr and Mrs MEP' are con­signed to the dustbin.

This article appeared in The Spectator in July 2013