New era for EU as Van Rompuy, Ashton take up top jobs

30th November 2009, Comments 1 comment

The two top jobs are enshrined in the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, which enters into force on December 1, ending ten years of European institutional navel-gazing.

Brussels -- The EU's first president Herman Van Rompuy takes office Tuesday, along with foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, hoping to boost Europe's global standing amid criticism of the low-profile pairing.

The two top jobs are enshrined in the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, which enters into force on December 1, ending ten years of European institutional navel-gazing.

The treaty, successor to the aborted EU constitution, is aimed at streamlining an expanded bloc and boosting its voice on the world stage. It will also reinforce the EU parliament's role and cut the number of national vetoes on European policy.

But most attention is on the two new top jobs, designed also to give the EU a human face.

The coupling of Van Rompuy, who resigned as Belgian PM to take the top EU job, and British peer Ashton, who leaves her stewardship of the EU trade commission, has raised eyebrows as well as hopes.

"EU leaders have continued the job of weakening the EU institutions," opined EU Greens co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit, after European leaders nominated the pair earlier this month.

Bendit described the 62-year-old Van Rompuy as "bland" and Ashton as "unremarkable."

He is not alone in voicing disappointment at the lack of a European big hitter who could stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of the United States and China -- at one stage Ex-British PM Tony Blair had been in the frame.

Europe will now be led by "two pygmies", scoffed Nigel Farage of the eurosceptic UK Independence Party.

The pair must also deal with resistance within Britain to the kind of supranational diplomacy which their job descriptions demand.

However French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner spoke of a "balance" and defended Van Rompuy and his "science of compromise".

"Some say he is not a charismatic personality... but that's perhaps not one of the fundamental qualities for leading Europe," he said

Flemish Christian-Democrat Van Rompuy swiftly earned a reputation as a quietly effective diplomat during his 11 months at the Belgian helm, managing to keep the feuding Flemish and francophone parties within a coalition government.

In line with his quiet diplomacy, he intends to take a softly-softly approach at first, so as not to tread on the toes of the Swedes who will hold the EU's traditional rotating presidency until the end of the year.

But Van Rompuy will be in Lisbon on Tuesday for a ceremony marking the entry into force of the EU's reforming treaty which was originally signed in the Portuguese capital.

A swift tour of other European capitals will see him meet up with the prime ministers of Denmark and Slovenia as well as Italy's Silvio Berlusconi among others, before presiding over his first EU summit on December 11.

No such welcome tour for Ashton, who will find herself under the scrutiny of the EU parliament's foreign affairs committee the day after taking up her post.

She is likely to face questions on her past role in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain, which had communist links.

For others there are more pressing issues concerning the 53-year-old who inherited her EU trade job from fellow British peer Peter Mandelson.

"The idea of handing Europe's diplomacy to Britain, that is to say to a country which doesn't even want a European diplomacy" is nothing but "a caricature," opined former French premier Michel Rocard.

Baroness Ashton, who has no foreign policy experience and has never been elected to office, points to the key role she played in easing the Lisbon Treaty through the European parliament when she was Leader of the upper House of Lords.

She will head up a new, and eventually vast, European diplomatic service as well as becoming vice-president in the European Commission headed by Jose Manuel Barroso.

Her supporters say she is a quick learner and effective negotiator, skills that will be required when she assumes the beefed-up foreign policy role which will also put her in charge of security matters for the bloc.


1 Comment To This Article

  • Osman Gharanizadeh posted:

    on 30th November 2009, 21:09:51 - Reply

    Treaty of Lissabon!

    The project attempt bring closer European country. European country shows themselves as centure of democracy in this time. But the EU parlimant and the head of European Countries state, lieng behind ordinary people. Democracy which exist in daily form are result of thousands pionneers work over thousands of years not from EU parlimant or those countries head office.

    In fact most of them will prevent a real unification of Europe.

    Exempel for that is Treaty of Lissabon. The text show incompetence, racism, oligarchism. People will be president of EU, Representative from different countries,...different organisations,... . Most of them are after to get carrer. Even meets behind closed doors. They will make money with sell Eurofither to whom? För wad? To whose? Too bring war - where? It is difficult do this in Europe? In Middle East? They begun that with to build state Israel. War between arab and juish with whole west power against arabs and older Supreme Soviet.

    They create Bin Ldens, even with owen help 11 september here and there, Middle East Konflikt. 8 years bombarding a poor country as Afghanistan and seek after own spirit in name of democracy.
    30 European country can not write a relevant Treaty- How they can get to own personal dreams.

    In philosophy talks about freedom to do things or didn,t have will to do things after own will. Both of them exist. Life exist in planet Earth with own conditions in the solar system. Life for those lives in Earth dosent possible in Venos or saturnus. An example for the limitness of will. One person lives most 130 years- another exampel of humans incapabilitiy to live after own thouts and deads absolutly power to kill your will.

    When the EU- incompetent politician want to do to prevent the progress of life they losse that at the end- but they do difficult for people. They going to pay back very badly.
    USA have 25 % av worlds economy- but can,t get insurance to own people- when they live with other peoples wealth.

    They live as dogs to in Horn of Africa, Persian/Arabian Gulf, Pacific Osean, Europe, as NATO, to do the job exactly as a dog do- but dog do that with faitfully. They are just like a guy. Why you are there?

    For a month ago one army phiscian killed 13 of his collage. A cannibal killed his old girlfriend and eat upp hers body- then killed himself. Another one killed children in street.

    Everybody reach to own dreams on bace of natures low not own sick idea.