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European External Action Service

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 3rd May 2011.

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Photo of Stephen Gilbert Stephen Gilbert Liberal Democrat, St Austell and Newquay 2:30 pm, 3rd May 2011

What recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the role of the European External Action Service; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

I am in regular contact with my European counterparts about the work of the External Action Service, and with the EU High Representative, Baroness Ashton.

Photo of Stephen Gilbert Stephen Gilbert Liberal Democrat, St Austell and Newquay

The Minister will be aware of the growing number of countries in Africa and the Pacific that do not have representation from either the UK or other European Union member states. Does he agree that the European External Action Service could provide representation to European nationals in those countries?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

My hon. Friend talks about the EEAS’s role in consular representation. Of course, under the treaties, that competence is given explicitly to member states rather than to European institutions, but it is quite right that the EEAS should, in line with the treaties, support the work of EU member states, especially by signposting EU nationals who are unrepresented to embassies or high commissions of another member state where they can obtain representation.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

During the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, the right hon. Gentleman was opposed to the European External Action Service. Does he agree that recent experience in north Africa and elsewhere in the world demonstrates the need for positive co-operation with our European partners?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

Neither I nor my party has ever quibbled with the idea that there should be effective European co-operation between member states. The test of whether the External Action Service is effective will be, in large measure, whether the High Representative and her staff can work effectively with member states’ Foreign Ministers, because only when member states reach a genuine common position does the High Representative have a mandate to act.