Ashton to preside over a ‘man’s world’

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EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has completed the appointments for 28 top officials at the European External Action Service, with only two women appearing on the list, according to a document seen by EURACTIV.

Few women and a geographical balance that leaves plenty of room for existing EU officials and nationals from Central and Eastern Europe are apparent from the list.

Only two women appear in the top positions: Helga Schmidt, who was previously head of the Policy unit at the EU Council of Ministers, and Claude-France Arnould, now head of the Civil-Military Planning Directorate (CMPD) at the Council.

Under pressure from the European Parliament, Ashton had promised to respect the "community" principle in building up the EEAS, by taking on board more than 50% of civil servants from the Commission and the Council, where member states are represented.

She also gave assurances to respect gender balance, with the caveat that she would hire only "the best and the brightest".

Geographical balance

Ten among the 28 names appearing on the list come from the current EU institutions. Six among the 28 are from the Central and Eastern European countries that joined the Union in 2004 and 2007.

Miroslav Laj?ák, former Foreign Minister of Slovakia and former EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was appointed as Managing Director for Russia, Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans. Viorel Isticioaia Budura, a Romanian diplomat, is appointed Managing Director for Asia. Ji?í Šedivý, a former Czech defense Minister and former NATO Deputy Secretary-General, got the post of Head of the EEAS Civil-Military Planning Directorate.

As previously reported, Maciej Popowski, a Polsh diplomat who until now was the head of cabinet of European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, will be Deputy Secretary-general for Inter-institutional affairs. Lithuanian diplomat Vygaudas Ušackas is the EU special representative in Afghanistan, and Filip Dimitrov, a former Bulgarian Prime Minister, will represent the Union as its Ambassador to Georgia.

Hugues Mingarelli, a French national and Deputy Director General at the Commission’s directorate for foreign affairs (RELEX) will be Managing Director for the Middle East and North Africa. Nicholas Westcott, a former UK ambassador to Ghana, will be Managing Director for Africa.

Among the other noticeable appointments is Ilkka Salmi, until now head of the Finnish Intelligence service (Suojelupoliisi/SIPO), who was named head of the EEAS Situational Centre (SitCen), a kind of intelligence service. Up to now, the Situational Centre operated under the EU Council of Ministers’ authority.

As the Swedish foreign ministry already announced, Ambassador Olof Skoog was appointed to chair the EEAS Political and Security Committee (PSC). Skoog has already led the PSC when Sweden held the rotating EU presidency in the second half of 2009, and has been Sweden´s representative at the Committee for the past three years. Prior to this, he was Director-General for Political Affairs at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Stockholm.

Italian Agostino Miozzo, previously director for international relations and volunteers at the Italian Civil Protection Service, was appointed Managing Director for Crisis response, Dutch General Ton Van Osch is to head theEuropean Union Military Staff (EUMS), and his compatriot Kees Jan René Klompenhouwer will lead the EU Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC). Swedish General Håkan Syrén is to lead the EU Military Committee (EUMC).

Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said the EEAS marks ''a new beginning'' for the bloc's external policies as it brings together and streamlines all of the existing resources, staff and instruments.

''We will also receive a fresh injection of talent and skills as we incorporate Member States' diplomats into our team. This combination of staff and resources will be more than the sum of its parts: we will be able to find synergies and develop new ideas, which will enhance our ability to act more creatively and decisively in an increasingly challenging world," she added.

Introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, the European External Action Service (EEAS) is intended to give the European Union a greater role in foreign policy. Yet its scope and competences have been the subject of fierce debate among EU countries.

The setting up of the EEAS has also triggered nervous reactions from the EU institutions. The European Parliament in particular has flexed its muscles, calling for a true 'Community' approach.

Last July, EU foreign ministers gave their final approval to the EEAS, putting the ball in the Parliament's court to decide on the Staff Regulation, the Financial Regulation and the EEAS budget for 2010.

On 20 October, the European Parliament approved by an overwhelming majority the last legislative texts required to launch the EEAS. This has allowed the EU to have its new diplomatic service in place on 1 December 2010, the day of the first anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty.

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