November 20, 2009
by Lindsay Brown
Leaders of the 27 nations of the European Union selected Herman Van Rompuy, prime minister of Belgium, on Thursday to become the EU’s first president.
Britain’s Baroness Catherine Ashton, who is now the EU’s trade commissioner, was named High Representative for Foreign Policy, the number two position at the EU.
Both Van Rompuy and Ashton have had little political presence in the media until now. Van Rompuy’s new role will be to unify and facilitate cooperation among high profile leaders.
Prior to his one year being prime minister for Belgium, Van Rompuy, 62, worked as an economist. He speaks English, Flemish, and French.
“Europe must be in every member state’s advantage,” said Van Rompuy at a press conference in Brussels. “This cardinal principle leads me to a two-track approach. First of all, I will consider everyone’s interests and sensitivities. Even if our unity is our strength, our diversity remains our wealth. Every country has its own history, its own culture, its own way of doing things. Our journey may be toward a common destination, but we will all bring along different luggage.”
Van Rompuy belongs to the Centre-Right, while Ashton is from Britain’s Labour Party, making the two new leaders a politically balanced pair.
Both Van Rompuy and Ashton will take their new charges in January.