Notes to the editors:
European Court of Auditors (ECA) special reports are published throughout the year, presenting the results of selected audits of specific EU budgetary areas or management topics.
This special report (No 11/2014) entitled “The establishment of the European External Action Service”, assessed whether the establishment of the European External Action Service (EEAS) was adequately prepared; the resources of the EEAS were prioritised, organised and allocated efficiently; and the EEAS has coordinated effectively with the Commission and the Member States?
This report is the result of an independent assessment of the establishment of the EEAS. The ECA’s audit took place at the same time as the preparation of the EEAS mid-term review. The auditors’ findings and recommendations are generally in line with the EEAS self-assessment, which reinforces the need to address the weaknesses identified.
The EU auditors found the establishment of the EEAS was rushed and inadequately prepared. It took place during a time of financial constraints and of increasing turmoil in the Southern Mediterranean. At the same time, the set-up of the service was beset by too many constraints and vaguely defined tasks. These factors contributed towards a difficult start-up environment.
Weaknesses in the prioritisation, organisation and allocation of resources have reduced the EEAS’s efficiency. The integration of the EU special representatives within the work of the EEAS is not sufficient. As regards recruitment, the auditors found that significant gender and geographical imbalances have not yet been fully corrected and that the recruitment procedures are costly and lengthy.
Finally, the ECA concluded that coordination with the Commission and Member States has improved, but is still insufficient for the EEAS to fulfil its potential. Coordination with the Commission was affected by the EEAS being a separate body, the absence of effective cooperation at top level and a rigid financial and administrative framework at delegations, which takes resources away from political tasks. Coordination with Member States does not fully exploit synergies, such as information sharing or co-location, and does not cover consular services, including the protection of EU citizens abroad. Having the EEAS as permanent chair of some Council preparatory bodies has facilitated coordination but the potential benefits of the new arrangements have not been fully realised.
The report sets out a number of recommendations to enhance the EEAS’s added value and efficiency, such as clarifying its tasks and objectives, streamlining its organisational design, simplifying its administrative framework, strengthening its strategic role and developing its planning. The report also recommends reviewing the appointment process and functioning of EU special representatives and EEAS recruitment procedures. The EEAS should work with the Commission to mitigate the impact of the rigidity of its financial and staff regulations on the efficiency of EU delegations. Finally, the EEAS should continue its efforts to promote information sharing and co-location with Member States; and should assess the opportunity to offer consular services, including the protection of EU citizens.
A short video interview with the ECA Member responsible for the report is available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/EUAuditorsECA