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The first anniversary of the European External Action Service (EEAS) finds the European Union (EU) in the midst of an economic, financial, and identity crisis that has aggravated the ongoing decline in Europe’s stature on the global scene as new political and economic actors emerge. The new diplomatic service provides the EU with an opportunity to address its shortcomings in foreign policy by bringing greater coherence to external policy making; by enhancing consistency across EU instruments; and by adopting a more comprehensive and strategic approach to global challenges.
During its first year of operation, the EEAS has been learning by doing, for example by responding to the revolutionary changes brought about by the Arab Spring, the political instability and the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, and the ongoing shifts in the global balance of power. Drawing on the experience gained by both Oxfam and its partners on the ground, this paper intends to shed a first light on the strengths and weaknesses of the new EEAS.
With the right institutional setup and vision, and with unambiguous support from Member States, the EEAS could represent a contribution to, rather than a deviation from, the EU’s treaty mandate to promote its values and champion an international order premised on respect for human rights and international law, the principles of equality and solidarity, the eradication of poverty, and trade that is fair. The findings in this paper show that, in the changing global balance of power, an EU foreign policy driven by these values will help deliver the EU’s strategic interests and build its reputation and credibility as a leader in finding solutions to global problems.

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