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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 June 2006, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
EU aims for bigger foreign role
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (left) and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana
The Commission wants to work more closely with Javier Solana
The European Commission has unveiled plans designed to strengthen the EU's role on the world stage, despite the setback to the European constitution.

It wants better co-operation between the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, which represents the 25 member states.

"Europe is still punching under its weight," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

One idea is for EU officials to attend national diplomatic training schemes.

The report also calls for an "enhanced programme" of exchanges between the Commission, member states' diplomatic services, and the Council's secretariat.

Solana wooed

The proposals come as a response to October's summit at Hampton Court, where heads of state called for the EU to reinforce its external action despite the rejection of the constitution in France and the Netherlands.

Europe is still punching under its weight - its influence is not proportionate to its economic and trade dimension
Jose Manuel Barroso
Commission President
The constitution called for the creation of an EU foreign minister - with existing foreign policy chief Javier Solana tipped to be the first holder of the post - and a diplomatic service.

The new proposals would mirror the constitution by inviting Mr Solana, who reports to the member states, to become "associated" with the work of the external relations group of commissioners.

The report also suggests that the Commission and the Council secretariat should produce more joint strategy papers, and co-ordinate more closely in crisis management.

And it favours the idea of top EU officials abroad taking on a dual role as head of the Commission delegation, and special representative of the Council.

Consular co-operation

Mr Barroso said foreign leaders neither knew nor cared which institution was on which side of Brussels' Rue de la Loi, which separates the Commission from the Council.

The ideas will be discussed at an EU summit next week, along with proposals from Austria, the current president of the Council, for member states' consular services to work more closely together, especially in cases of natural disasters such as last year's Asian tsunami.

The EU has long worried about being an economic superpower but a "political dwarf".

The leader of the European Parliament's Liberal group, Graham Watson, described the Commission proposals as "sticking-plaster solutions" that were no substitute for the constitution.


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