Catherine Ashton: EU Diplomacy

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Catherine Ashton: EU Diplomacy

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The EU Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, announced plans to open an office in the rebel-held Libyan city of Benghazi to help provide aid and security to the Interim Transitional National Council (TNC).

The move could be considered a response to the unprecedented criticism Ashton has faced since taking her job 18-months-ago.

On Wednesday Catherine Ashton emphasised the importance of helping those who want to see democratic change, she said: “One of the thing that is really important is that we listen and you know when you’re thinking about what to do when you support the people of Egypt or Tunisia people wanting to drive their own future [we] also have to listen and that means you are also reacting to their needs.”

MEP and Leader of the German Social Democratic Party, Martin Shulz, believes Ashton needs to change the perspective of some European Ministers.

“The biggest obstacle for her are those Foreign Affairs Ministers like Guido Westerwelle in Germany or William Hague in London or Alan Juppe in Paris or whoever in which capital believing first of all my country then Europe and she must turn it the other way around,” he said.

A number of countres in the EU, including France and the UK, are frustrated by her perceived political failure.

The Belgian’s foreign minister, Steven Vanackere and former ally of Ashton, has said the highly paid politician has failed to get a unified dialogue from the 27 member states. His comments have been echoed by others.

Daniel Cohn Bendit said: “I think the problem is that Madame Ashton needs to be coordinated. She must lead, she must take a stand even if she is criticised by member states because everytime we make important decisions like these, foreign policy must be unanimous or there will never be progress.”

Our correspondent Paul Hackett in Strasburg said: “Many MEP’s admit she has an almost impossible task to unify the foreign policy of 27 Member States, despite that there is real frustration among many that the EU is not punching its weight more on the global stage.”