French minister defends EU's Ashton against 'unjust' criticism
French Defence Minister Herve Morin sprang to the defence of EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton on Monday, saying she had been the victim of "unjust" criticism within the bloc.
"Catherine Ashton has presided over this meeting with a lot of competence, a real wish to be constructive and a real knowledge of the dossiers," Morin said after the EU foreign and defence policy chief on Sunday attended her first talks with the 27 EU defence ministers.
"She has been the object of some not very kind remarks, which were unjust," the French minister told reporters following a working group in Luxembourg which Ashton presided over.
Ashton received brickbats from Morin's colleagues in February when she missed her first chance to attend an EU defence ministers meeting in Spain.
The former EU trade commissioner, who has been in the post since December, decided instead to attend the inauguration of the new Ukrainian president in Kiev.
Morin himself said at the time that it was "a bit rich" that Ashton hadn't turned up for talks on EU-NATO relations, when the defence alliance's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had found time for it.
Ashton, who has never been elected and has no foreign policy experience, previously came under fire in the European parliament for giving vague answers on policy questions.
The English baroness has also been accused more generally by her detractors of taking little interest in the defence part of her remit, or even showing the kind of euroscepticism in the matter which the British government displays.
The tone from Paris began to change after Ashton visited the French capital, and met Morin, last month.
© 2010 AFP