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Bureaucratic, Even By Brussels Standards

The EU's new foreign ministry and diplomatic corps, the European External Action Service (EEAS), has had its detractors ever since it got off the ground earlier this year. Too slow to react to the rapidly changing world around it, invisible in promoting the EU abroad, and perhaps most damning of all -- lacking a real raison d'etre.

It also seems to have a fairly Byzantine structure, at least for enquiring journalists. And in Brussels that's saying something.

It was all down to a flurry of phone calls I had to make to the newest of the European Union's institutions to figure out who the desk officer for one of the republics in the South Caucasus was.

Calling one of the secretaries at the EEAS I realized that she didn't have a real overview of the staff. Only after 45 minutes and via two unit heads, a secretary of a managing director, another staffer, and finally a desk officer for the Southern Mediterranean did I find the one person I was looking for.

There is an organizational chart on the EEAS website but it mainly lists the top brass without any contact details. For example, the cabinet of the foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, can all be reached but they prefer to let the two spokespeople do the talking as soon as a member of the press calls. And so the spokespeople are left with an enormous mountain of big and small requests on a daily basis.

The EEAS is a structure like no other in the EU. It is a mishmash of two former EU council departments, three departments from the European Commission, and seconded national diplomats.

Altogether there are some 1,600 staffers that were supposed to move into a swanky building in the center of the EU district in Brussels. But it appears that just getting everyone under the same roof is still a bit of an issue. The staff still remain spread out on eight separate sites across Brussels.

-- Rikard Jozwiak

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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