EUobserver / Full speed ahead on EU diplomatic corps after Strasbourg vote
The European Parliament on Wednesday (20 October) adopted by a crushing majority new budgetary and staff regulations for the European External Action Service (EEAS), clearing the last legal hurdle for the launch of the new institution.
"It's a historic vote. We're all one happy family now," an official in the entourage of EEAS chief Catherine Ashton told EUobserver.
EU foreign ministers are set to rubber-stamp the parliament decision when they meet in Brussels on Monday. Ms Ashton is then expected to name people for the three or four top posts in her service on Tuesday or Wednesday. Another 100 or so senior posts remain to be filled by the end of the year.
The British baroness now has until 1 December - the official launch date - to find a new home for the EEAS in the EU capital. EU Council secretary general Pierre de Boissieu is not keen to shift his translators out of the Lex building on the Rue de la Loi in the EU quarter in Brussels to make room, leaving the so-clled Axa or Triangle building a few hundred yards up the road still in play.
The current cost of housing the EU's foreign relations staff in the European Commission and EU Council amounts to 25 million a year, while the Axa option would cost 9 million a year, EUobserver understands.
Ms Ashton is also close to a compromise with the parliament's foreign affairs committee on hearings for new EEAS ambassadors. The diplomats are likely to face parliament questions in early December, after receiving full accreditation from their host countries.
Ms Ashton wants the hearings to be held for the most part behind closed doors. Following the vote on Wednesday, the foreign affairs MEPs have little leverage to use against her.