Rompuy chosen as EU president, Ashton as foreign policy chief

08:07, November 20, 2009      

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Belgium's Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy attends a press conference after an EU summit at the EU Council headquarters in Brussels, capital of Belgium, Nov. 19, 2009. Van Rompuy was elected the first full-time EU President during an extraordinary summit in Brussels Thursday. (Xinhua/Thierry Monasse)


Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy Thursday was unanimously elected as the first full-time president of the European Union and Britain's EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton as foreign policy chief of the 27-nation bloc.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, announced the appointment at a press conference held after a working dinner of leaders of the 27 member states.


European Trade commissioner Catherine Ashtone attends a press conference after an EU summit at the EU Council headquarters in Brussels, capital of Belgium, Nov. 19, 2009. Britain's Catherine Ashtone was elected EU foreign policy chief during an extraordinary summit in Brussels Thursday. (Xinhua/Thierry Monasse)


"Today, we decided the people who will lead Europe to the future," said Reinfeldt, with Van Rompuy, Ashton and President of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso sitting beside him.

At the press conference, Van Rompuy said that the appointment "marks a recognition of my country as a founding member of the EU," adding he will assume his duty as EU's first permanent president on January 1, 2010.

"Even if it is particularly hard to abandon the post I hold in my country, I have accepted the decision," said the low-profile politician who became Belgian Prime Minister in December 2008.

Ashton termed herself as a good negotiator, citing merits of striking a trade agreement with South Korea and settling decade-long trade disputes with the U.S.

"Judge me by what I do, you will feel proud of me," said Ashton at the same occasion, adding that "I now turn to European Parliament to hopefully endorse what has been put forward by the Council."

The two new top posts are regulated by the Lisbon Treaty, which is due to come into force on December 1, 2009. The role of the EU president is to chair the EU's summit, while the foreign policy supremo is to head the EU's foreign policy arm.

The foreign policy chief -- who is also to be a member of the executive European Commission -- needs approval from European Commission President Barroso and the European Parliament.

"The Kissinger issue is now solved," said Barroso, referring to the question put forward by U.S. former secretary of state Henry Kissinger. Kissinger said earlier, "Who do I call when I want to speak to Europe? "

Barroso said that U.S. President Barack Obama could call Ashtonnow because she would be in charge of European foreign affairs.

Source: Xinhua
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