Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy has been appointed as the first permanent European Council President and the UK’s Catherine Ashton has been confirmed as the EU foreign affairs chief.
Rompuy, who is 62, emerged as the strongest centre-right candidate despite only having been a prime minister for less than a year. EU officials say the chances of agreement on filling the posts increased when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown decided to stop trying to secure the post for Tony Blair and backed Ashton, the EU Trade Commissioner as High Representative for Foreign Affairs. The new leadership team appointments were confirmed at a news conference in Brussels. Baroness Ashton will be in charge of the 27-nation bloc’s foreign affairs and security policy and will wield enhanced powers under the Lisbon Treaty.