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09/12/2016

Poland nominates Sikorski to replace Ashton

Europe's East

Poland nominates Sikorski to replace Ashton

Catherine Ashton meets Radoslaw Sikorski. Warsaw, 2012. [ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland]

Poland has confirmed that it will nominate its Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski to replace Catherine Ashton as EU foreign policy chief.

Ashton has held the post of High representative for foreign affairs and security policy for five years, but has ruled out standing for a second term. The role is seen as that of the EU’s “foreign minister”.

Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Mr Sikorski would be a “natural candidate”. 

“I will say it openly: Poland has gained such significant influence in foreign policy, that the so-called high representative would be within the scope of our interests” he said.

Polish foreign minister since 2007, he has been an outspoken critic of Russian foreign policy.

The 51 year old Sikorski has helped drive a hardline stance on the Ukraine crisis and called for a more robust European response to Russian military intervention in Georgia and Ukraine.

He was a leading figure in the international diplomatic response to the Ukraine crisis earlier this year.

Together with the German and French foreign ministers, he helped broker a peace deal in the final days of Viktor Yanuokvych’s presidency.

Oxford-educated, Sikorski has had an unusually varied career. As a student in Poland before the Berlin Wall came down, he led a strike against the Communist authorities, an activity that at the time often led to arrest.

He was granted political asylum in Britain, studied at Oxford University, and later worked as a journalist. His reporting assignments included Afghanistan and Angola.

He is married to the American author Anne Applebaum, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for her book “Gulag,” a history of the Soviet camps where political prisoners were held.

The nomination comes in the wake of a EU leaders summit on 27 May, when heads of state and government, taking stock of the EU elections’ results, gave the mandate to European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy, to explore options in view of choosing the next President of the European Commission.

>> Read: ‘ No momentum’ for Juncker: EU leaders leave options open

Van Rompuy will talk to the presidents of the newly composed groups. A compromise would avoid institutional haggling and the door is left open for outsiders to take on the EU executive’s lead. But Juncker is still in the game: much depends on the agreement that parliamentary groups can find in the coming days. 

Background

The European elections were held in all EU countries in May 2014. The Lisbon Treaty states that the European Parliament shall elect the commission president on the basis of a proposal made by the European Council, taking into account the European elections (Article 17, Paragraph 7 of the TEU). This will apply for the first time in the 2014 elections.

The European Parliament, parties and many others have pushed for European political parties to nominate their front-runners in the election campaigns. In the wake of the elections, EU leaders gathered in Brussels (27 May) for a dinner to discuss the results. In the backdrop, the parliamentary groups took first steps in discussing coalition building to get their top candidates elected to the highest office in the EU institutions: the EU Commission presidency.

European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy, got a mandate to explore options in the coming weeks. Van Rompuy will talk to the presidents of the newly composed groups. A compromise would avoid institutional haggling and the door is left open for outsiders to take on the EU executive's lead. But Juncker is still in the game: much depends on the agreement that parliamentary groups can find in the coming days.