Group annotations on this page
Foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton will turn her attention to choosing the top officials and the main building for the European External Action Service (EEAS) after the EU Parliament approved the legal blueprint for the new body.
MEPs in a landslide result in Strasbourg on Thursday (8 July) backed the final EEAS set-up by 549 votes against 78 with 17 abstentions.
The EEAS today boils down to Ms Ashton and a team of 30-or-so officials in one corridor on the 12th floor of the European Commission building in Brussels, struggling to work with EU experts in the commission's Charlemagne building next door, the EU Council building across the road and dozens of other bureaus.
From 1 December, she will take command of some 1,500 officials housed under one roof in the heart of the EU quarter in Brussels, as well as 800 EU diplomats in the EEAS' 136 foreign embassies.
In a sign of tension in the Lisbon-Treaty-era EU, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos defended member states' prerogatives in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
Mr Fillon reportedly said it is a "red line" for Paris that member states will take foreign policy decisions, while Ms Ashton will simply "implement" them. Mr Moratinos said that in some cases, such as human rights in Cuba, bilateral diplomacy is more effective than EU-level action.
For his part, the leader of the Liberal group in the parliament, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, on Wednesday attacked the "19th century" mentality of "nation states." "What century are we living in? Terrorism, does that stop at borders? Climate change? Migration?" he said.