The UK 'will provide more EU officials to increase her influence' vows Hague - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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The UK 'will provide more EU officials to increase her influence' vows Hague

Thursday, 1 July 2010
There was a particularly interesting subject address today by William Hague in his first major speech as Foreign Secretary in which he laid bare the new blueprint for Britain's foreign policy - the subject of the number of British national working as EU officials.

Foreign Secretary, William Hague, gave a speech outlining the Government's vision for UK foreign policy in London, 1 July 2010. (Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/ the UK representing 12% of the EU population, he revealed that just 1.8% of entry-level jobs in the European Commission are held by British citizens and to this said "it is mystifying to us that the previous [Labour] Government failed to give due weight to the exercise of British influence in the EU.

"They neglected to ensure that sufficient numbers of bright British officials entered EU institutions, and so we now face a generation gap developing in the British presence in parts of the EU,” he said.

"As a new Government, we are determined to put this right."

Foreign Secretary, William Hague, gave a speech outlining the Government's vision for UK foreign policy in London, 1 July 2010. (Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/ Hague, left, clearly wants to boost the numbers of Brits working for the EU and this ‘recruitment drive’ will form part of a “new approach to foreign policy designed to extend British global reach and influence”.

He then disclosed the number of British officials at director level in the European Commission had fallen by one-third since 2007, and the number of UK posts by 205 overall, but it remains unclear how the government can 'put this right'; especially when you consider the widespread euroscepticism of this country, and the linguistic barrier that forms one of the EU’s recruitment requirements.

While the majority of the work and conversations within the EU institutions are conducted in English, to even be considered for a traineeship, applicants must have a very good knowledge of a second official language, such as French or German. But only 2-2.5% of students actually choose to pursue modern languages to degree-level at university (myself included).

But then, there is another problem since European civil servants are duty-bound not to further their own country's national interests, so how will this wash with Mr Hague’s idea that more Britons should join the Commission to give "due weight to the exercise of British influence in the EU"?

I, for one, will be very closely following Mr Hague’s intentions and shall very soon be soon sending a letter and CV to the Foreign Office

UPDATE (01/06 - 15.15):

Chris BryantFascinating response to this speech by Chris Bryant, the former EU minister pictured left - speaking in the last few minutes on the BBC News Channel, Mr Bryant has called Mr Hague's speech "the biggest pile of posh tosh that I've heard in my life" and that "this is one of the worst foreign secretary speeches I've heard...There's nothing in it".

He said that Mr Hague had spent his career "trying to persuade Britain and Britons to have absolutely nothing to do with the EU" and that had had more of an effect on Britain's standing in Europe than Hauge's speech today.

"What I think is really disappointing.. he's not laying out a patriotic cause for Britain to unite around.. he's just trying to rubbish what we did in the past."

David MilibandMr Bryant's words follow closely behind the advise given by the former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband, left, who responding to Mr Hague's attacks on the previous government's record in foreign affairs, told him he should start behaving as the government post he holds demands.

The message to William Hague is very simple: you don’t have to play politics any more. You’re the foreign secretary now. Behave like the foreign secretary," he told Sky News.

William Hague built up a reputation as being very good at parliamentary jokes and very good at after dinner speeches. He’s now got a serious job to do and I think its very important that he just focuses on his job. Foreign policy isn’t about trying to take some silly hits at a previous administration.

UPDATE (01/06 - 18.17):

Richard HowittAnother Labour minister has waded in on the debate - but one that would know the European administration to a greater extent. Richard Howitt, left, a Labour MEP representing the East of England, has correctly reminded Mr Hague that Britain had more of the highest-grade officials - Director-General level - than any other country. "Across all grades in the Commission, we are in sixth place out of 27 member states, with 1,300 Brits in service," he said.

"Mr Hague should know it is counter-productive to make such an announcement which will only raise the hackles of other nationalities, when it was much better for Labour to quietly encourage British applicants without making a fuss but actually getting the result," he said.

Currently there are more than 25,000 Commission civil servants and British nationals hold six Director-General posts - more than any other member state.

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