Richard North, 21/07/2013  

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Norman Lamont asks whether the EU really needs 32 diplomats in Mozambique? But the interesting thing here is not the question but the inability to join up the dots.

The answer, actually, is yes, if you are managing a €622 million aid budget. The real question, therefore, is should the EU have a €622 million aid budget for Mozambique? That is a more important question, but one which is neither asked nor answered.

However, if you are going to spend public money, you need public servants to manage the expenditure. And, if anything, the programme in Mozambique is under-managed, especially compared with Barbados, where there are claimed to be 44 staff.

There, in this tiny island of 270,000 inhabitants, the current aid programme is only €10 million, although the "Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol Countries" (AMSP) provided for more than €34 million for the period 2007-2010.

What is taking the effort, though, is that the island plays a pivotal role in the regional integration efforts and relations between the Caribbean region as a whole, and the European Union. There is much work in hand towards establishing a Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM), with officials based in Barbados because it is the regional hub.

Again, you can argue whether these activities are valid, and whether they should be done in our name. But, to the question does the EU really need 44 diplomats in Barbados, the answer is probably yes.

Nevertheless, Lamont, complains that the EU's external action service adds up to a foreign service 3,400 strong — more than 1,400 staff in Brussels and more than 1,900 abroad. The EU has a large aid budget and Commission staff (another 3,400 in the delegations) involved in administering aid programmes, making a "staggering total" in the delegations of over 5,400 and a budget of €509 million.

Yet, even in one instance, through the aegis of the EU, we are engaged in talks on an all-embracing trade deal with the US, the likes of which will need hundreds of staff to keep the negotiations going. How does Norman Lamont propose that this initiative should be staffed? 

By contrast, for 2011-12, the FCO employed 13,215 permanent staff: 4,530 of these were UK-based, and 8,685 were locally engaged, with an overall budget in the order of £1.5 billion. DFID, which handles the aid, had a staff of 2,384 – bringing the total to about 11,000.

This is what really distresses (the polite word) me about the likes of the Spectator and the clever-dick Lamont. They always go for the cheap shot, without getting down to the core issues.

The point is that the last Government endorsed the creation of the EEAS and the Coalition Government permits its continuation and expansion. If it is to perform its functions in accordance with the treaties, it needs the staff and funding – which is by no means as lavish as the fading UK with more than double the bodies. 

There is, thus, no point in whingeing that the EEAS is a "vanity project which should be dismantled". You would be better off asking why we still have an FCO when the EU runs our foreign policy. And if we don't like that idea, we should leave the EU and be done with it.


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