The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Baroness Ashton of Upholland?

November 24, 2009

I know the EU is often dysfunctional, but this really shocked me. Last week, the EU selected Herman van Rompuy, the Belgian prime minister, as the European Union’s first president, and Catherine Ashton of Britain, currently the group’s trade commissioner, as its high representative for foreign policy. (She’s also the Baroness Ashton of Upholland).

Rompuy has been on the job in Belgium for less than a year and Ashton has no foreign policy experience.

So much for the arguments that we might get some form of balancing — hard or soft — from Brussels. Looks like France and Germany were so concerned about Blair becoming the EU’s first President that they pushed for this minimalist team….

The EU has a $13 trillion economy — roughly on par with the United States. I know Javier Solana had a lot of detractors, but he carried some weight and could leverage his skills and experience to move Brussels into a more active role in the world. It’s hard to see how the tandem of these two unknowns will raise the profile of the EU’s common foreign and security policy.

From the NYTimes: “It’s going to be difficult to explain to the public why there was so much fuss about the Lisbon Treaty if all we get is someone no one has heard of,” said one E.U. official speaking on condition of anonymity.

As for Ashton, here’s what one of her former colleagues said: “To think that we wanted Blair and we ended up with Cathy Ashton. It’s such an indictment of Gordon,” said one member of the government hours after the appointment was announced.

Another fine moment from Brussels.

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Jon Western has spent the last fifteen years teaching IR in liberal arts colleges at Mount Holyoke College and the Five Colleges in western Massachusetts. He has an eclectic range of intellectual interests but often writes on international security, U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, and human rights. He occasionally shares his thoughts about professional life in liberal arts colleges. In his spare time he coaches middle school soccer, mentors the local high school robotics team, skis, and sails.