Just days ahead of the Lisbon Treaty coming into force, the European Council has appointed its two most senior officials.
Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy will serve as the President of the European Council, a permanent chair of the council of heads of government and heads of state, who will preside over meetings, and act a representative for the Council for his term of two-and-a-half years. After the French and Germans had agreed to support Van Rompuy, his success was assured. He has led a coalition of the Flemish and French-speaking communities for over a year, and has most recently led tricky negotiations over the rights of the French-speaking minority in Flemish suburbs of Brussels. He will take up his role on 1 December 2009, but assume his responsibilities on a practical basis on 1 January 2010.
The post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs has gone to Catherine Ashton, current Commissioner for Trade, from the United Kingdom. The nomination took most observers by surprise, given Ms Ashton's absence of diplomatic experience. She will also be Vice-President of the Commission and head of the new External Action Service of the EU, the diplomatic body which will represent the EU in member states and beyond. She will take up her role on 1 December 2009.
The appointment of Ashton in the foreign policy role will leave the key economic and financial portfolios for the French, Germans and Italians, when the new Commission is appointed.
23 November 2009