The EEAS manages the EU’s diplomatic relations with other countries outside the bloc. It aims to make the EU's foreign policy more consistent and efficient, thereby increasing Europe'sinfluence in the world.
The service works closely with national diplomatic services in EU member countries, with many personnel from those services seconded to its staff.
One major role is to support the EU’s strategic partnerships with key international players and its engagement with emerging powers around the world. The EEAS works closely with the UN and other leading powers such as the United States and Russia.
Notable EU activities on the world stage include:
- peacebuilding, through political, economic and practical support – for example in the western Balkans after the Yugoslav wars.
- operating civilian and military missions to build security around the world, under the common security & defence policy
- maintaining friendly relations with countries at the EU's borders, through the European neighbourhood policy
- providing development aid, crisis response and humanitarian aid, and tackling climate change and human rights issues.
Head of the EEAS
The service is led by Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign affairs chief – or High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy.
The High Representative is also a European Commissioner, and chairs the EU-level meetings of member governments on foreign affairs (through the Foreign Affairs Council). This makes EU foreign policy more consistent and coherent.
EU around the world
Outside its borders, the European Union is represented by a number of in-country offices – EU delegations – which have a similar role to that of an embassy.
The EEAS is the youngest EU body, created in 2011 to merge the foreign policy departments of the European Commission and the EU Council.