Britain's Lady Catherine Margaret Ashton will become the new European Union's (EU) foreign policy minister to serve under new EU President Herman van Rompuy of Belgium. She replaces Javier Solana.
Lady Ashton (52), or formally Baroness Ashton of Upholland, is married to Peter Kellner, the President of YouGov, a pollster, commentator and journalist. Ashton is a member of Labour, and has served as the Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council. She replaces Javier Solana.
Ashton, as High Representative, will be the face of foreign policy for the EU and will spend most her time traveling, with an intense focus on the Middle East. Daniel Hannan, a Conservative Member of Parliament criticized Ashton's appointment as Trade Commissioner for the European Parliament. Hannan said she had to experience "in trade issues at a time when the EU is engaged in critical negotiations with Canada, Korea and the WTO.
News of her promotion will astound British diplomats, who would not have regarded her senior enough for the job. The two new posts are meant to bolster the EU’s influence overseas.According to the Daily Mail, this new role for Ashton will "make her one of the world's most powerful unelected figures," even thought the Mail says, "she has had an umimpressive spell as EU trade comminssioner:
Baroness Ashton of Upholland will now be able to rule the roost over thousands of staff from a grace-and-favour home in Brussels. And, despite having desperately little foreign affairs experience, she will find herself representing the European Union in capitals all over the world.The Wall Street Journal says Ashton will be in charge of the EU's military missions overseas with an annual budget of $5.96 billion.
It is a remarkable rise for a woman who is virtually unknown in Britain, let alone in Europe.
Herman van Rompuy is a Christian Democrat, and a devout Catholic. Van Rompuy's presidency will be the EU's first full-time president.
Both Ashton and van Rompuy will assume their posts on December 1st.