The Commission and the Council Secretariat have confirmed to us that neither has done any preparatory work on the External Action Service since the opening of the ‘period of reflection’ in June 2005.
During the UK presidency (July-December 2005), and at the request of some member states, we held informal bilateral discussions at a working level on the External Action Service. However, no work was taken forward because of a lack of consensus on how and whether to proceed and on whether there was any legal basis for such work. There has since been no attempt to reopen the issue among the member states.
The External Action Service is an element of the constitutional treaty. At present there is no consensus among EU Governments on the future of the constitutional treaty. The German presidency has been asked by EU leaders to present a report to the European Council in June on possible next steps following consultation with all EU Governments. I set out the Government’s approach in my written ministerial statement of 5 December 2006, Official Report, columns 10-11WS.