Europe and the EU

Reports and papers

EU representation in the OPCW after Lisbon: still waiting for Brussels

03 Sep 2012 - 12:03
Bron: Jef Seghers

'If the European External Action Service (EEAS) sent an EU delegation that could actually replace the representation through member states, why would I be still here?' This is a quote from a diplomat of an EU member state who represents his country at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague. In his work he closely coordinates his activities with other EU member states in order for the EU to speak with a single voice on OPCW matters. After the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, one would expect an EU delegation to international organisations to be responsible for this coordination and the EU's representation. However, since there is no such EU delegation in The Hague, these tasks are currently still carried out by the country holding the half-yearly rotating EU Presidency. This new Clingendael Paper questions whether this is a problem, and more generally analyses the extent to which the EU operates as an international actor at the OPCW and is effective in reaching its objectives on the barring of chemical weapons.

In the paper the EU's current effectiveness in the OPCW is related to its international 'actorness', which is examined through EU authority, preference homogeneity and EU socialisation. Data were gathered through interviews with EU member states' diplomats working on OPCW issues. The paper finds that although the EU has the authority to deal with OPCW issues and the 27 delegations in The Hague share roughly the same preferences, the representatives of EU member states still mainly see themselves as national representatives. They are rather self-reliant, operating relatively isolated from the international arena, which results in a disconnect with broader international debates (such as general debates on non-proliferation).

Establishing an EU delegation to international organisations in The Hague, which is tasked with responsibility over EU coordination and external representation in the OPCW, could improve the EU's effectiveness, as it is likely to enhance the EU's visibility and coherence between the EU position brought in at the OPCW and at other international venues. However, an EU delegation would only be of added value if it operated with well-informed staff who quickly gain the confidence of EU member states and are sensitive to national sovereignty claims made by, for instance, the United Kingdom.