Daniel Korski

Who will be Cathy Ashton’s Sir Humphrey?

Who will be Cathy Ashton’s Sir Humphrey?
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The fight for the most powerful job you've never heard of is being fought by people who you've probably also never heard of. For EU foreign policy “czar” Cathy Ashton has published her plans for Europe’s diplomatic service, which is meant to oversee the EU's multibillion-pound annual development budget and have a diplomatic staff of about 7,000 people. Her proposals can be found here.

The proposals have commentators are split. Dan Smith and Mark Leonard are in favour, but a couple of MEPs have called me expressing their frustration with the plans. European legislators are particularly concerned about the powers given to the Permanent Under-Secretary type figure, the Secretary-General of the EEAS. Vying for the post are at least three people:

•    Poul Skytte Christoffersen, a special adviser in Lady Ashton’s office but a long-serving Danish diplomat who was most recently Danish EU ambassador. Close to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

•    Pierre Vimont, the current ambassador of France to the United States, former French envoy in Brussels and French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner’s chief of staff.

•    Christoph Heusgen, Chancellor Merkel’s foreign policy adviser, a former head of Javier Solana’s Policy Unit and an ex-deputy chief of staff to German foreign minister Klaus Kinkel.

Though his name has not come up yet, I also think Christian Danielsson, Sweden's ambassador to the EU, is one to watch. Danielsson used to head a European Commission directorate and was deputy head of cabinet to Commissioner Günter Verheugen, which gives him a unique insight into both the Council Secretariat and the Commission, the two organisations that the will comprise the EEAS.

If Ambassador Vimont is picked it will amount to an impressive hat-trick for Nicolas Sarkozy. As a Frenchman, Pierre de Boissieu, is the Secretary-General of the Council, i.e. Herman Van Rompuy’s No. 2, and a Frenchwoman, Claude-France Arnould, runs the EU’s crisis management bodies (with a direct line to Lady Ashton). Not many Brits are being spoken of for the top job. Robert Cooper, a British diplomat and foreign policy thinker seconded to the EU, is unlikely to be picked for the secretary-generalship.