In September of 2013, I arrived bright-eyed in Brussels to begin working for a year as the first U.S. diplomat at the European External Action Service (EEAS) as part of the Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellowship (TDF). While the TDF program with the EU has existed since the late 1990s, this was the first exchange with the newly created EEAS institution.
I had a great experience working with smart and motivated colleagues representing a multitude of nationalities and professional backgrounds from all of the EU Member States. At the same time, we all recognized that the previous memorandum of understanding for the TDF exchange was outdated and didn’t reflect post-Lisbon Treaty realities, including the creation of the EEAS, the EU’s foreign policy arm. And so began a challenging and detailed negotiation of a new arrangement that drew in a host of legal, security, and personnel experts.
Their work culminated in a new TDF arrangement between the Department of State, the EEAS, and the European Commission that was signed at a ceremony in Brussels on March 13. Our newly arrived Ambassador Anthony Gardner signed for the U.S. while the EU was represented by EEAS Chief Operating Officer David O’Sullivan – soon to be on his way to Washington to become the next EU Ambassador to the U.S. – and Catherine Day, the Secretary General of the European Commission. The new TDF is an affirmation of the strength of the transatlantic relationship, and I personally look forward to a time when I will be back in Washington and able to welcome a colleague from the EEAS at the State Department.
By Matthew Lehrfeld, Political Officer and former Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellow