The EEAS works under the political guidance of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission (often referred to as HR/VP). 

A  strong asset of the EEAS is its ability to work closely with the foreign and defence ministries of the member states of the European Union (EU) as well as with the EU institutions such as the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament. It also has a strong working relationship with the United Nations and other international and multilateral Organisations. 

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The EU international roles

All over the world, the European External Action Service, in coordination with  the European Union institutions, addresses EU foreign policy priorities, including civilian and military planning and crisis response.

The EU works to prevent and resolve conflicts, to support resilient democracies, to promote human rights and sustainable development, to fight climate change, and to contribute to a rules-based global order.

The role of the EEAS is to try and bring coherence and coordination to the European Union's international action.

The Lisbon Treaty sets out clearly what should guide the European Union internationally.

"The Union's action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law."

Discover how and when the European External Action was created.

Find out about Consular protection for EU citizens travelling or living abroad.

High Representative / Vice President

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission (HR/VP)

On 1st December 2019 Josep Borrell Fontelles has assumed the role of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission (HR/VP).

The HR/VP role entails making the European Union stronger and its voice heard on the international stage, working closely with the foreign and defence ministries of the member states of the European Union, the EU institutions, and fostering partnerships with the United Nations and other International Organisations.

As the EU’s chief diplomat, the HR/VP steers foreign and security policy on behalf of the European Union and coordinates the EU’s foreign policy tools. He also heads the European Defence Agency.

Follow the HR/VP on Twitter: @JosepBorrellF

More on the role of the HR/VP and previous High Representatives.

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    HR/VP Josep Borrell

    Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission (HR/VP)

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    EEAS SG Stefano Sannino

    Stefano Sannino, Secretary-General of the EEAS

Secretary-General of the EEAS

The Secretary-General manages the EEAS under the authority of the High Representative. He is tasked to take all the necessary measures to ensure an efficient functioning of the EEAS, including its administrative and budgetary management.  

The Secretary-General provides strategic direction to the work of the EEAS and an effective coordination on foreign policy between the headquarter and the delegations, with the EU institutions, with his Member States counterparts and with third countries, including through political dialogues.

Since 1st January 2021, Stefano Sannino is the Secretary-General of the EEAS.

Follow the Secretary-General on Twitter:  @EEAS_SecGen

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    The headquarters of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Brussels, Belgium

    The headquarters of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Brussels, Belgium,

EEAS Headquarters

Based in Brussels, but relying on an extensive network of EU diplomatic presence worldwide, the EEAS brings together European civil servants, diplomats from the foreign services of the EU member states and local staff in countries around the world.

The EEAS is headed by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission (HR/VP) Josep Borrell.

The daily work at the EEAS headquarters is overseen by the Secretary General, Stefano Sannino, assisted by the Deputy Secretaries-General.

The EEAS is divided into both geographical and thematic directorates:

Five large departments cover different areas of the world – Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe and Central Asia, the Greater Middle East and the Americas. 

Separate departments cover global and multilateral issues which include, for example, human rights, democracy support, migration, development, response to crises and administrative and financial matters. 

The EEAS also has important Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) planning and crisis response departments. The EU Military Staff is the source of collective military expertise within the EEAS and also advises the High Representative/Vice-President on military and security issues. 

For more information, see the latest EEAS organigramme.

EU Diplomatic Representations

Following the Treaty of Lisbon, the EEAS is responsible for the running of EU Delegations and Offices around the world.

The Diplomatic Representations play a vital role in representing the EU and its citizens around the globe and building networks and partnerships. The main role is to represent the EU in the country where they are based and to promote the values and interests of the EU.

They are responsible for all policy areas of the relationship between the EU and the host country – be they political, economic, trade or on human rights and in building relationships with partners in civil society. In addition they analyse and report on political developments in their host country. They also programme development cooperation through projects and grants. A fundamental aspect of a Delegation is its public diplomacy  role which consists in increasing the visibility, awareness and understanding of the EU.

Delegations are diplomatic representations and are usually responsible for one country, although some are representatives to several countries. The EU also has diplomatic representations to international organisations like the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation for example.

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    EU diplomatic missions
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    Operation Irini in Action

Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

In order to enable the European Union to fully assume its responsibilities for crisis management and act as a global security actor, EU Member States decided to establish permanent political, military and civilian structures.

Discover CSDP structures, agencies and instruments

Under the Common Security and Defence Policy, the EU takes a leading role in peacekeeping operations, conflict prevention and the strengthening of international security. It is an integral part of the EU's comprehensive approach towards crisis management, drawing on civilian and military assets.

The EU’s military and civilian CSDP missions and operations are the EU’s most visible presence abroad. Almost 5,000 women and men help to promote peace and security where needed, providing stability and building resilience in fragile environments. They are the faces of the EU’s security and defence policy.

Since the first CSDP missions and operations were launched back in 2003, the EU has undertaken 36 overseas operations, using civilian and military missions and operations in several countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. As of today, there are 17 ongoing CSDP missions and operations, 11 of which are civilian, and 6 military.

Discover EU military and civilian missions worldwide

Follow the dedicated social media accounts on Security & Defence: @EUSec_Defence & European Union Security and Defence

Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)

EU Member states have committed themselves to a Common Foreign Security Policy for the European Union. The Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union aims to preserve peace and strengthen international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter.

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Member States implement the CFSP in accordance with EU treaties (Treaty of Lisbon).

Main instruments of the CFSP:

  • Civilian and Military Capabilities: The European Security and Defence Policy aims to strengthen the EU's external ability to act through the development of civilian and military capabilities in Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management.
  • Sanctions: To influence policies violating international law or human rights, or policies disrespectful of the rule of law or democratic principles, the EU has designed sanctions of a diplomatic or economic nature.
  • EU Special Representatives: Several special representatives have been appointed to promote the EU’s policies and interests in specific regions and countries and play an active role in efforts to consolidate peace and to promote stability and the rule of law. 
  • Non-proliferation and disarmament projects: The EU is also a leading international actor in the fight against illicit accumulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons.
  • With the European Peace Facility (EPF), the EU is taking on more responsibility as a global security provider

See also: CFSP Annual reports 

Foreign policy instruments (FPI)

The EU maintains diplomatic relations with nearly all countries in the world and undertakes a range of actions with strategic partners, key international players, and emerging and developing powers. Working alongside the European External Action Service (EEAS), the service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) is responsible for operational expenditures in the crucial area of EU external action.

The Service for Foreign Policy Instruments is reporting directly to the High Representative/Vice-President of the European Commission. FPI works closely with the European External Action Service and with all the Commission's Directorates General to ensure that our work is the most coherent and effective.

FPI act as first responder to foreign policy needs and opportunities in the following areas:

  • Advancing EU interests and values in the world: Through the Partnership Instrument (PI), the EU cooperates with partners around the world to advance the European Union's strategic interests and tackle global challenges.
  • European Peace Facility: The European Peace Facility is an off-budget instrument that allows the EU to do more and to act more swiftly to support global peace and security through actions with military and defence implications.
  • Conflict prevention, peace and stability: The Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) is the EU's financial instrument to respond quickly and flexibly to conflicts and crisis. IcSP provides funding for short and mid-term actions on conflict prevention, crisis response and peacebuilding around the world, and longer term-assistance to projects linked to global and trans-regional threats. As of 2021, The IcSP will be integrated into the rapid response pillar of the Neighbourhood, Development, International Cooperation  Instrument (NDICI).
  • Responsible sourcing of minerals: The European Union is committed to preventing international trade in minerals from intensifying or perpetuating conflict, with an aim to stop profits from trading minerals being used to fund armed conflicts.
  • Election observation: Election observation is a vital EU activity aiming to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law worldwide. It contributes to strengthening democratic institutions, building public confidence in electoral processes, helping to deter fraud, intimidation and violence. It also reinforces other key EU foreign policy objectives, in particular peace-building.
  • Recovery and peacebuilding assessments, post-disaster needs assessments and COVID recovery needs assessments: The European Union, the United Nations and the World Bank work together since 2008 to assist countries recovering from conflict-related or natural crises in assessing needs and defining recovery and reconstruction activities
  • Anti-torture measures: As part of its responsibility for foreign policy-related regulatory instruments, the FPI is the lead service for Regulation (EU) 2019/125 of 16 January 2019 concerning trade in certain goods that could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.




EU Special Representatives

The European Union has Special Representatives in different countries and regions of the world.

The EU Special Representatives (EUSRs) promote the EU's policies and interests in specific regions and countries and play an active role in efforts to consolidate peace, stability and the rule of law.

The EUSRs support the work of the EU High Representative/Vice President (HR/VP), in the regions concerned. They play an important role in the development of a stronger and more effective EU Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and in the Union's efforts to become a more effective, more coherent and more capable actor on the world stage. They provide the EU with an active political presence in key countries and regions.

The first EUSRs were appointed in 1996. Currently, nine EUSRs support the work of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.

Read more

EU Special Envoys

EU Special Envoys are senior experts appointed to deal with a set of specific issues.

Currently, the EEAS has appointed 6 special envoys: