European Scrutiny Committee Contents

51 EU Special Representative for Afghanistan


Council Decision appointing the European Union Special Representative for Afghanistan

Legal baseArticles 28, 31(2) and 33 TEU; QMV
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationThen Minister's letter of 16 April 2010
Previous Committee ReportHC 5-xv (2009-10), chapter 7 (24 March 2010); also see (30674) —: HC 19-xix (2008-09), chapter 14 (10 June 2009) and HC 19-xxiii (2008-09), chapter 7 (8 July 2009); and (31296) —: HC 5-x (2009-10), chapter 8 (9 February 2010)
Discussed in Council22 March 2010 Foreign Affairs Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared; further information requested


51.1 EU Special Representatives (EUSRs) are appointed to represent Common Foreign and Security Policy where the Council agrees that an additional EU presence on the ground is needed to deliver the political objectives of the Union. They were established under Article 1 of the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty and are appointed by the Council. The aim of the EUSRs is to represent the EU in troubled regions and countries and to play an active part in promoting the interests and the policies of the EU.

51.2 An EUSR is appointed by Council through the legal act of a Council Decision (formerly a Joint Action). The substance of his or her mandate depends on the political context of the deployment. Some provide, inter alia, a political backing to an ESDP operation, others focus on carrying out or contribute to developing an EU policy. All EUSRs carry out their duties under the authority and operational direction of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR; Catherine Ashton). Each is financed out of the CFSP budget implemented by the Commission. Member States contribute regularly e.g. through seconding some of the EUSR's staff members.

51.3 In June 2005 the Political and Security Committee (PSC) decided that EUSR mandates should in principle be extended for 12 months rather than the previous arrangement of six months. This was put into effect in February 2006. The UK supported this proposal, as it enables extensions to be based on a more thorough reporting cycle. The renewed mandates now also ask EUSRs to prepare progress reports in mid-June and mandate implementation reports in mid-November.

51.4 The European Union currently has 12 Special Representatives (EUSRs) dealing with: Afghanistan, the African Great Lakes Region, the African Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Central Asia, Georgia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, the Middle East, Moldova, the South Caucasus and Sudan.

51.5 Some EUSRs are resident in their country or region of activity, while others work on a travelling basis from Brussels.

Earlier consideration

51.6 On 9 February 2010 the previous Committee considered a number of draft Council Decisions extending their mandates. In his accompanying Explanatory Memorandum, the then Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Chris Bryant) explained that, the earlier decision of the PSC notwithstanding, on this occasion the mandates were to be extended, not for the usual 12 months, but only until 31 August 2010, or until the establishment of the European External Action Service (EEAS), whichever was the earlier; and that the HR intended to revert to the matter in the light of further work on the EEAS.


51.7 The Council Decision that the then Committee considered had extended the appointment of Mr Ettore Sequi as the EUSR in Afghanistan. His mandate encompassed support to the government of Afghanistan, in particular in the implementation of the EU-Afghanistan Joint Declaration, support to the United Nations in Afghanistan, liaison with regional countries in support of EU policy, supporting the EU's work on human rights and coordination of EU work in Afghanistan.

51.8 In her accompanying Explanatory Memorandum of 25 January 2009, the then Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Caroline Flint) said:

—   the EU and Afghanistan's partnership was defined by the Strasbourg Declaration of 16 November 2005, with the joint commitments in this Declaration being kept under review by periodic meetings between the Afghan government and the EU;

—  the EU (specifically, the European Commission and Member States) was a major donor to Afghanistan, having disbursed or pledged $7.5bn between 2002 and 2011, including over $5bn of pledges in support of the Afghan National Development Strategy at the Paris conference in June 2008;

—  EU Member States provided approximately 16,000 troops to International Security Assistance Force;

—  the EU launched its Police Mission to Afghanistan (EUPOL) in June 2007;

—  the EU Special Representative would continue to play an important role in focusing the EU effort, and ensuring that it dovetailed with the work of other bilateral and multilateral partners;

—  the Afghan government and international partners, particularly the UN, continued to insist upon the need for greater international coordination in Afghanistan; and

—  in view of the many challenges facing the country in 2009, particularly the Presidential elections and the difficult security situation in the south and east of the country, the need for effective international engagement was even greater.

51.9 Then, in June and July 2009, the previous Committee considered a further proposal to amend the mandate to include Pakistan. In her Explanatory Memorandum of 3 June 2009, the then Minister for Europe said that the decision to extend EUSR Sequi's mandate to include Pakistan "reflects the direction of international debate on Afghanistan and broader regional challenges, particularly on Pakistan", and "also chimes with a message that the UK has been consistently delivering in the EU, that we need to be better equipped to address the regional dimension of policy on Afghanistan, particularly Pakistan." The then Minister supported the extension of the mandate to include Pakistan on the grounds that the Government had been "pushing the EU to increase its engagement in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and to see the problems in both countries as interlinked", in line with the new US strategy, which had similarly refocused its Afghanistan policy to include Pakistan, and included the appointment of Richard Holbrooke as US Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and subsequent appointments of various other 'Af/Pak' Special Envoys, "all of which highlight the international communities [sic] focus on the links between instability in both countries."

The previous Committee's assessment

51.10 The previous Committee had no wish to hold up this amendment, and accordingly cleared the document, which it reported to the House because of the widespread interest in the subject matter. But it had a number of questions for the then Minister, to which she responded in a letter of 30 June 2009, and which was reported that to the House in its Report of 8 July 2009.[200]

The latest mandate extension

51.11 In commenting on this latest extension of EUSR Sequi's mandate, the then Minister for Europe (Chris Bryant) noted that there might be a change in the candidate for this role. He then commented as follows:

"The Government supports the extension of this mandate because of the important role of the EU in Afghanistan. The EU and Afghanistan's partnership, defined by the Strasbourg Declaration of 16 November 2005, means that EU commitments are kept under review by periodic meetings between the Afghan government and the EU. The EU is a major partner in Afghanistan, having disbursed or pledged $7.5bn between 2002 and 2011. EU member states also provide approximately 16,000 troops to the International Security Assistance Force and the EU has launched an ongoing Police Mission to Afghanistan (EUPOL) since June 2007.

"The EUSR will continue to play an important role in focusing the EU efforts described above, and ensuring that it dovetails with the work of other bilateral and multilateral partners. The Afghan government and international partners, particularly the UN, continue to place an emphasis upon the need for greater international coordination in Afghanistan, the EUSR is a key part of fostering this cooperation."

51.12 The previous Committee noted that the Minister was unable to provide any financial information on this occasion. It also understood that, Afghanistan being a major UK priority, the Minister was pushing for a decision at the 22 February 2010 Foreign Affairs Council, and that, as well as their being a possible new EUSR, it was expected that the mandate would be significantly upgraded.

51.13 The previous Committee also understood that, these lacunae notwithstanding, the Minister had submitted what information was presently available in order to take account of the impending parliamentary recess, which, regrettably, meant that there was insufficient time between then and the 22 February FAC for the Minister to provide this additional information.

51.14 No other questions arose, and the previous Committee had no wish to hold up the process, so it cleared the documents. But in so doing it asked the Minister to provide a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum as soon as possible with the sort of financial information that he had provided on previous occasions and full information about the candidate and mandate of the EUSR for Afghanistan.

51.15 Looking further ahead, the then Committee reminded the Minister that it would expect full and timely financial and other relevant information when all the mandates next came up for renewal, particularly about the way in which the EUSRs would interact with the prospective EEAS.[201]

51.16 It was announced on 22 February 2010 that Vygaudas Ušackas — the foreign minister of Lithuania until his resignation in January — had been appointed as the European Union's next special representative for Afghanistan and head of its delegation in Kabul.

The further draft Council Decision

51.17 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 22 March 2010, the then Minister for Europe said that the Foreign Affairs Council on 22 March would confirm the appointment of Mr Ušackas as EUSR for Afghanistan from 1 April 2010. He also noted that the mandate for the current EUSR, Ettore Sequi, expired on 31 March 2010.

51.18 The draft Council Decision said that the financial reference amount intended to cover the expenditure related to the mandate of the EUSR in the period from the date of entry into force of this Decision to 31 August 2010 shall be €2,500,000. The then Minister said that the cost of the new appointment would be met from existing EU budgets; and that there would be no call for Member State contributions.

51.19 After briefly rehearsing some of the context, the then Minister said that the Government supported the appointment of Vygaudas Ušackas:

"As a senior political figure, his appointment as EUSR is a demonstration of the EU's enhanced engagement in Afghanistan. It is also the last piece in the jigsaw to up the international civilian effort, following the appointment of heavyweight figures for the role of NATO Senior Civilian Representative and the new UN Special Representative for the Secretary General. Key to the civilian effort in Afghanistan will be enhanced co-ordination between theses three roles."

The previous Committee's assessment

51.20 The previous Committee cleared the document.

51.21 In so doing, it noted that, although Mr Ušackas' appointment was announced by the High Representative on 22 February, there was no mention of it in the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of that same day, or of Afghanistan at all.[202] Moreover, the HR's letter to the Council of 22 February mentioned, en passant, the prolongation of the mandate of a further EUSR, to Burma/Myanmar, on the same basis as the others, i.e., until 31 August 2010, or until the establishment of the European External Action Service (EEAS), whichever was the earlier; the previous Committee asked when this would be submitted for scrutiny.

51.22 The previous Committee asked the Minister to explain more about this present process, noting that, under Article 33 TEU, it was for the HR to propose and for the Council to decide; here, however, it would seem that an appointment had been made, and announced to the world, with no sign of discussion in the Council; and that the Council — and thus this Committee's role — was now to rubber stamp it.

51.23 The previous Committee also noted that, contrary to what he said in his 3 February Explanatory Memorandum, the then Minister now said that Mr Sequi's mandate was extended only until 31 March, but nothing about how and when this decision was taken. The previous Committee asked the Minister to clarify this. Nor did the then Minister say anything about Mr Sequi's successor; the previous Committee asked to know more about his qualifications for this crucially important job.

51.24 The previous Committee also asked to know more about the job itself. The then Minister did not mention that it was to be "double-hatted", i.e., that he was to be not only the voice of the Council but also the head of the Commission's technical assistance operations. The then Committee asked:

—   what this would entail;

—  what annual budget he would control;

—  what main programmes he would be in charge of implementing;

—  how they related to other bilateral and international activities; and

—  in his EUSR capacity, what his 1 April to 31 August 2010 budget of €2,500,000 would be spent on.

51.25 Moreover, although the previous Committee's understanding was that the EUSR's mandate was to be significantly upgraded, it seemed instead to have been diminished, in that there is no mention of his predecessor's role regarding Pakistan. It asked the then Minister to explain this.

51.26 In addition to be asked to clear a fait accompli, the previous Committee noted that it was also being asked to do so after a further administrative error by the Minister's Department — this despite several assurances that this type of administrative oversight would be a thing of the past. So it asked the Minister to explain, in detail, the nature of this oversight and how, despite his assurances, it came to pass.

The then Minister's letter of 16 April 2010

51.27 The then Minister responds as follows.


51.28 The then Minister says that, in accordance with Article 33 TEU, the High Representative proposed the appointment of Mr Ušackas through her letter to the Foreign Affairs Council of 22 February. A Council Decision appointing Ušackas was adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 22 March. The Council remains an essential part of the process of selecting an EUSR. It is the Council which appoints, or rejects, the candidate proposed by the High Representative.


51.29 The then Minister reminds the Committee that a draft version of the Council Decision extending the mandate was cleared on 9 February 2010 and replaced by the Council Decision agreed at the March FAC appointing Mr Ušackas.


51.30 The then Minister says that, between 2008 — 2010, Mr Ušackas was the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and that during this time he visited Afghanistan a number of times to oversee the Lithuanian Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Ghor Province and the 200 Lithuanian troops based there. Prior to that, Mr Ušackas was the Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States of America and Mexico between 2001- 2006, the Ambassador to the United Kingdom between 2006-2008 and represented Lithuania at its mission to the European Union and NATO between 1992-1996.

51.31 The then Minister goes on to say that the EUSR's role will unite the former EUSR and Head of the European Commission delegation positions, "resulting in a stronger, unified CFSP/Commission delegation." He continues as follows:

"The appointment of Vygaudas Ušackas, a senior political figure, will add weight to this position and is a welcome signal of enhanced EU engagement at this crucial time. The primary role will be to represent the EU in country and promote EU policy objectives in Afghanistan. This will entail contributing to the implementation of the EU-Afghanistan Joint Declaration and lead the implementation of the EU Action Plan in Afghanistan. It will also involve working in close cooperation with the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, Staffan De Mistura and the NATO Senior Civilian Representative, Mark Sedwill, to enhance coordinated of the civilian effort in Afghanistan. No decision has yet been taken on how the Pakistan aspect of the EUSR position could be undertaken most effectively. I will keep the committee informed as this debate evolves.

"You rightly note that EUSR will have a budget of €2,500,000 from 1 April to 31 August. This is the administrative budget to be spent on running the EU mission in Kabul, including salaries, accommodation, transport, running expenditure and capital costs.

51.32 Turning to the matter of how the oversight referred to above happened, the then Minister says:

"In essence, this was a miscommunication between Afghan Group and Europe Global Group in my department, resulted in a delay in sending the Explanatory Memorandum (EM) on the appointment in time for it to clear scrutiny before the March Foreign Affairs Council. I met with representatives from both departments on 22 March to discuss what had caused the error and agreed steps to ensure this did not happen again, including an additional resource for improving internal communications and, in particular spreading the message of the vital importance of Parliamentary Scrutiny."


51.33 Finally, the then Minister says that the EU Special Envoy is an informal role, appointed by the High Representative and not subject to agreement at Council, and therefore not subject to scrutiny. In addition, the then Minister notes that the present incumbent's position is funded directly by the Italian government and not from the Common Foreign and Security Policy budget.


51.34 We are reporting this further information to the House because of the widespread interest in the subject matter.

51.35 But we note that the then Minister not only has nothing to say about how the Pakistan aspect of the EUSR position could be undertaken most effectively: he also fails to respond to the previous Committee's questions about the non-EUSR component of Mr Ušackas' job (c.f. tirets one to four of paragraph 51.24 above).

51.36 There is now a new Minister for Europe. We ask him to provide the information requested by the previous Committee that his predecessor did not furnish.

51.37 We also ask the Minister to confirm the Treaty basis for the informal appointment of an EU Special Envoy; to explain why the agreement of the Council is not needed; and to explain whether an EU Special Envoy can be funded from the CFSP budget.

200   See headnote: (30674) -: HC 19-xix (2008-09), chapter 14 (10 June 2009) and HC 19-xxiii (2008-09), chapter 7 (8 July 2009).  Back

201   See headnote: (31296) -: HC 5-x (2009-10), chapter 8 (9 February 2010). Back

202   The Council Conclusions are available at  Back

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