By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels
Last Updated: 2:31AM BST 03/05/2008
The European Union will open its own embassies under a plan critics fear represents a "power grab" by Brussels officials pushing for a federal superstate.
The secret plan represents the first time that full EU embassies have been discussed seriously.
The "Embassies of the Union" would be controlled by a new EU diplomatic service created by the Lisbon Treaty.
The Daily Telegraph has seen a high-level Brussels document discussing plans for a "European External Action Service" (EEAS) which was proposed under the new EU Treaty, currently being ratified in Westminster.
Talks have so far remained behind closed doors. Officials fear political fallout over plans to implement the new Treaty before it has been fully ratified.
Plans for the new foreign service have raised highly sensitive political issues by giving trappings of statehood to the EU and by fusing, for the first time, national diplomats with existing "eurocrats".
A vicious battle over who should control the diplomatic corps has broken out between national governments and the European Commission.
Countries such as Britain are alarmed that the EEAS, which is expected to take on some consular activities, would be a stepping stone to a single "supranational" euro-diplomatic service.