The First EC President Herman van Rompuy - The Best from Greece

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Posted on: 20/Nov/2009

EU leaders have chosen the Belgian Prime Minister, Herman van Rompuy, to be the first permanent European Council President.

Chosen by 27 member states by qualified majority vote
Two-and-a-half-year term
Can be re-elected once
Chairs EU summits
Drives forward the work of EU Council of Ministers
Facilitates cohesion and consensus
Represents the EU on the world stage

The other top job created by the Lisbon Treaty - foreign affairs supremo - has gone to the EU Trade Commissioner, Baroness Catherine Ashton from the UK.

Both are seen as consensual politicians with limited foreign policy experience.

Both had unanimous backing from the 27 EU leaders at the summit in Brussels, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.

Earlier, the UK government had said it was no longer pushing for former PM Tony Blair to get the presidency post.

Mr Van Rompuy, 62, had crucial French and German support. He has a reputation as a coalition builder, having taken charge of the linguistically divided Belgian government and steered it out of a crisis.

Herman van Rompuy: Every country should emerge victorious from negotiations
"Every country should emerge victorious from negotiations," he told a news conference after his appointment.

"Even if unity remains our strength, our diversity remains our wealth," he said, stressing the individuality of EU member states.

Baroness Ashton, 53, said she felt "deeply privileged" to get the foreign affairs post.

"I was the first woman British commissioner, the first woman trade commissioner, so I am also proud to be the first woman High Representative," she said.

"I think there was a strong push to have at least one woman in a senior position," she told the BBC later, adding that she hoped Europe would become "an economic superpower".

US President Barack Obama said the appointments would "strengthen the EU and enable it to be an even stronger partner to the United States".

"The United States has no stronger partner than Europe in advancing security and prosperity around the world," the White House said in a statement.

UK shifts stance

Earlier, a UK government spokesman revealed the dramatic twist in the British position.





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