Friday, November 20, 2009

Top posts filled

At a press conference on Thursday evening, the names of the individuals appointed to the top posts discussed at the informal summit between the EU’s heads of state and government, were presented. Herman Van Rompuy was appointed permanent President of the European Council, Catherine Ashton was appointed High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Pierre de Boissieu Secretary-General of the Council Secretariat.

After an apparently successful working dinner, a proud Fredrik Reinfeldt presented the EU’s two new leaders: the permanent President Herman Van Rompuy and the ‘Minister for Foreign Affairs’ Catherine Ashton. The crowd of journalists assembled in the press conference room in the Council building in Brussels was of record size.

“The whole of the EU stands behind these names. We showed this tonight, reaching these unanimous decisions”, said Fredrik Reinfeldt at the press conference.

Will represent all Member States

Herman Van Rompuy may not be the most famous of EU politicians, but he was tipped for the posts as President of the European Council by many. He was elected Belgian Prime Minister last year, and has held high posts in the Belgian political leadership since 1975. He has been both Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Budget. Now, he will instead have the task of representing all the EU’s Member States. This was something he spoke of when commenting the decision:

“The EU belongs to us all and should be there for each Member State. We are on a common journey heading towards a common destination, but we all have our own luggage and we must be allowed to be different from one another”, he said.
“There have been many speculations on what the permanent President’s profile should look like, but only one profile is possible. A profile characterised by dialogue, unity and action.”

"Honoured and privileged"

The new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, who today holds the post as European Trade Commission, said she was deeply honoured and privileged.

“Working with both the Council and the Commission will be a challenge, and being the first person ever to hold this post will be a challenge. I was the first woman British European Commissioner, then I was the first woman Trade Commissioner and now the first woman on this post.”

Fredrik Reinfeldt stressed that the choices of Baroness Ashton and Mr Van Rompuy was an important step towards raising the EU’s voice in the world.

“We were looking for individuals who could create continuity, who could bring us together, be Europe’s voice, face and presence in the world. I think we have achieved this” said Fredrik Reinfeldt, receiving the support of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

Background: Herman Van Rompuy was born on 31 October 1947 in Brussels and is Prime Minister of Belgium, a post he has held since December 2008. In 1975 he became adviser to Prime Minister Tindemans and then to Minister for Finance Gaston Geens. Between 1993 and 1999 Mr Van Rompuy held the posts of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Budget in Belgium. In 2007 he was elected President of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives.

Catherine Ashton is European Trade Commissioner. She has a background as an economist and is a member of the British House of Lords, representing the Labour party. Baroness Ashton has also served as Leader of the House of Lords, where she was responsible for the examination of the Treaty of Lisbon. She was born in 1956 in Upholland in the United Kingdom and has the title of Baroness of Upholland.

Press Statement: Swedish Presidency of the EU. Published on 19 November 2009


“Catherine Ashton is a good choice for the job of the Union’s Foreign policy chief “said Martin Schulz, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.

“In the House of Lords, she managed to secure Britain’s support for the Lisbon Treaty, showing genuine negotiating skills”, he said.

“As commissioner for trade, she has acquired experience in very complex international negotiations. I have no doubt that she will perform her new duties with distinction”, he added.

“We fought hard to achieve this goal for a member of our political family: we actually explicitly linked this job to the renewal of Mr. Barroso’s mandate “; Schulz continued.

"I am particularly pleased that such a capable woman has been appointed to this senior post. Her nomination is a small compensation fro the low level of representation of women in the Commission overall.

“Catherine Ashton, we should not forget, will be the number two of the European commission and, as such, she will be the voice and the face of the Union’s external policy”, the Socialists and Democrats leader concluded.

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