The EU’s New Foreign Policy Chief: A Six Month Review and Analysis of Lady Ashton’s Tenure

The EU’s New Foreign Policy Chief: A Six Month Review and Analysis of Lady Ashton’s Tenure

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Johan Bergenäs

Research Associate, The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies


At the end of last year, Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland was among those most surprised by her ascent to the top foreign policy job in the European Union (EU). On December 1, 2009, as the Lisbon Treaty entered into force, Lady Ashton formally became the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. However, even prior to her first day on the job, critics fiercely charged that she was undeserving of the job and did not have the bona fides to speak for the EU on foreign policy matters. Her supporters naturally suggested she be given time to assert herself in the position as the EU's top diplomat.[1] In her first six months, Lady Ashton in particular had a chance to position herself on one issue that the EU considers a top foreign policy priority, namely combating the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to states and non-state actors. The timeframe between December 2009 and May 2010 was an extremely busy WMD nonproliferation and disarmament time, including high level international meetings, the conclusion of a new arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia, as well as continued efforts by U.S. President Barack Obama to fulfill his Prague agenda. As a result, Lady Ashton has had ample opportunity to make the EU's and her own voice and convictions clear on this particular issue.

Early statements from Lady Ashton indicated that the weapons of mass destruction nonproliferation issue would not be a priority for the new High Representative. Throughout the spring, however, she fell in line with the previously articulated EU policy on the subject matter. She has been particularly active on the Iranian nuclear issue, her rhetoric sharpening as she became more comfortable in her new role. As a result of the nature of the EU membership, consisting of both nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapon states, Lady Ashton has weighed her words carefully on most issues nuclear, especially on the vision of a world free of these weapons.

Ashton's Path to the Helm of EU Foreign Policy and the Extent of Her Powers

Since 2001 efforts to make the EU more democratic, more transparent and more efficient through the adoption of an EU constitution failed as several EU member states rejected the document in national referendums. In its stead, the Lisbon Treaty was negotiated, which entered into force on December 1, 2009 after ratification by the 27 member states. This marked significant changes to EU governance, but amended rather than replaced the previous treaties including the Nice Treaty, Treaty of Amsterdam, Maastricht Treaty and Treaty of Rome.

In terms of new leadership, implementation of the Treaty included the institution of President of the European Council, a two-and-a-half year office replacing the system of rotating national presidencies and a new post of High Representative, which combines and replaces the posts of High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, previously held by Javier Solana, and European Commissioner for External Relations. The merger is an effort to have Europe speak with a more unified voice on the international arena and to a larger extent be a global player. The new position gives Lady Ashton wide-ranging policy-making powers, a large annual budget, and, in the future, a worldwide staff in the form of a European diplomatic corp.

Immediately following her nomination to become the High Representative, critics of Lady Ashton, many of whom are members of the European Parliament, accused her of not having the foreign policy experience required for her new job. One member of the European Parliament asked her days after the announcement why she thought she had been selected despite there being more qualified candidates.[2] "As to why I was chosen," said Lady Ashton, "it was because 27 heads of government invited me. I may not be your choice but I appear to be theirs…"[3] Her response was true, 27 heads of states did select her, but only after political horse-trading among Europe's leading nations.[4]

Before supporting Lady Ashton to hold the High Representative post, however, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown supported his predecessor, Tony Blair, to be the European Council's first president. Former Prime Minister Blair, however, did not have the necessary backing by the Council, which instead unanimously named Belgian Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy, for the post. The High Representative position was then slated to be filled by the UK. Based on experience, Britain's then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was arguably among those best suited for the job, but Miliband declined Brown's offer to place him at the forefront of European foreign policy-making. Other potential British candidates did not gain sufficient support among European leaders.[5] At the same time, Lady Ashton had the backing of her boss, José Barroso, President of the European Commission, and European leaders eventually unanimously offered her the job.

Since assuming her position, the criticism of her appointment and job performance has endured. Her work on establishing an EU diplomatic corps came under fire both during and after she released her proposal in March. Turf wars and power-grabbing attempts by member states and EU diplomats poisoned the process.[6] Other areas of contention included not traveling to Haiti immediately after the earthquake there, disputes over ambassadorial appointments and general lack of visibility of the High Representative.[7] Notwithstanding a busy spring crafting the European External Action Service proposal and the criticism launched against her, Lady Ashton has established a track record on WMD nonproliferation.

Ashton's Initial Statements Leave Out WMD Nonproliferation

The threat posed by the spread of WMD to state and non-state actors received little attention from Lady Ashton in the first few weeks after her appointment. In her first public appearance as the EU foreign policy supremo before the European Parliament on December 2, 2009, her prepared remarks left out any mention of nonproliferation.[8] Two weeks later, supposedly having had the chance to catch her breath after being projected to international notoriety overnight, she again failed to note the threat posed by the spread of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons. In an article published in one of Britain's major newspapers, Lady Ashton wrote that the EU "already speak[s] with conviction and clarity on the major challenges that face" the regional organization's member states, listing climate change, poverty, conflict, and terrorism, but notably not WMD nonproliferation. [author's emphasis][9]

The exclusion was rather remarkable considering that the latter issue has been a top EU foreign policy priority in recent years. Lady Ashton's predecessor led negotiations with Iran over that country's nuclear program for several years and the issue is identified as one of five key security threats facing the regional organizations in the 2003 European Security Strategy (EES).[10] Additionally, in contrast to the other perils listed in the EES an "EU Strategy Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction" was crafted and adopted by the European Council alongside the broader strategic document in 2003. This action signals the special attention given to efforts to combat the spread of WMD by the EU decision-making bodies and bureaucracy.

To ensure the strategy's effective implementation, Solana, then the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, appointed Annalisa Giannella to spearhead these efforts. Giannella, a long time European diplomat, further developed the WMD strategy through various initiatives. Since the strategy's adoption, numerous common positions, regulations, joint actions, council decisions, and action plans have been adopted to implement the strategy.

A recent major addition to the strategy includes the 2008 "New Lines for Action," which focuses on five major nonproliferation areas: intensifying efforts to counter proliferation flows and proliferation financing, sanctioning acts of proliferation, developing measures to prevent intangible transfers of knowledge and know-how, raising awareness in scientific and academic circles, and financial institutions, and continuing cooperation with international organizations and third countries to help them improve non-proliferation policies and export controls.[11] The work to achieve the objectives of the New Lines for Action is ongoing and due to be achieved at the end of 2010. The EU's efforts towards implementing its WMD strategy have also been thoroughly documented in progress reports every six months. It is in this light that Lady Ashton's near silence on the nonproliferation issue at the end of 2009 seemed out of touch with ongoing progress on one of the EU's major foreign policy objectives.

WMD Nonproliferation Remains Top EU Priority

The 2010 edition of Lady Ashton struck a different tone on WMD nonproliferation issues when going before the European Parliament for her hearing to become Vice President of the European Commission in January this year. Lady Ashton made it clear that preventing the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons to states and non-state actors will continue to be a top priority for the EU.

In written answers to a European Parliament questionnaire ahead of her confirmation hearing, Lady Ashton unconditionally pledged that she would give priority to the nonproliferation issue. In her responses to the European Parliament she wrote that she intends to "use all the instruments available to strengthen the engagement of the European Union in countering chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear proliferation."[12] Subsequently, in her opening remarks before European Members of parliament (MEPs) on January 11, 2010, she mentioned nonproliferation first among the thematic issues of priority and said she intended to expand current EU efforts in this area.[13] Other issues which are part of a broader foreign policy and security agenda for the EU included counterterrorism, human rights, energy, and climate change.

Those hoping that Lady Ashton's presentation to the Parliament would be a Prague-like address à la Barack Obama in April 2009, in which the U.S. President shared his vision of a nuclear weapons free world and mapped initial steps towards such a future, were disappointed. Despite reaffirming the importance of issues concerning WMD and making her personal convictions clear, Lady Ashton's approach was either vague or a parroting of current EU nonproliferation policies. In Lady Ashton's defense, she hardly could have been expected to achieve detailed familiarity with all the issues in her portfolio in the short time before her nomination hearing, but she did speak to a few of the current challenges the international community faces today as it pertains to nuclear weapons proliferation.

The Hard Nonproliferation Cases: Iran and North Korea

In terms of the Iranian nuclear program, widely suspected by the West to have military intent, Lady Ashton reassured MEPs that she was "in close contact with all the relevant actors, including the E3+3."[14] Unwilling to go into any greater details over the Iranian nuclear conundrum, she said imprecisely, "We need to decide on next steps in light of Iran's refusal to accept its international obligations."[15] A number of MEPs, however, pressed her on the Iranian issue during the question and answer sessions, asking what action she was prepared to take if Tehran continued to defy international nonproliferation rules. Lady Ashton stated her commitment to the ongoing "twin-track" process, recognizing that dialogue "is not an excuse to play for time."[16] Asked about the prospect of a new round of sanctions against Iran, Lady Ashton deferred by saying that such measures would be discussed in the E3+3 framework, as well as in the European Union depending on future decisions in the European Council.[17]

Negotiating with Iran was one of Solana's defining activities as leader of the EU's foreign policy. Starting in 2003, when Washington refused to talk to the Iranian regime without preconditions, Solana kept the channels of communications open and ultimately, with the help of other EU member states, was able to bring the United States into the dialogue. A physicist by training, Solana brought to the negotiations, and the EU post in general, a long record of foreign policy experience, having served as both Spain's Foreign Minister and Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Overall, however, Lady Ashton has endured criticism for lacking a robust background in foreign affairs. Lady Ashton has defended herself touting "twenty-eight years of experience of negotiation, of consensus-building and of advocacy."[18] The record indeed shows major accomplishments in her previous role as EU Trade Commissioner, including concluding an estimated €19 billion trade agreement between the EU and South Korea, the biggest such agreement in the regional organization's history.[19] Lady Ashton has also strengthened the relationship with key EU strategic partners such as China and the United States, and managed to resolve difficult trade disputes with third countries.[20] Further, as previous Leader of the House of Lords in the UK, she was instrumental in steering the Lisbon Treaty through that body.

Since her appointment, Lady Ashton has continued to stress unity within and beyond the EU in approaching Iran on its nuclear program. Together with U.S. Secretary of State, during her visit to Washington, DC in late January, Lady Ashton said that "We stand together with the United States, the E-3+3…we want to have dialogue, but six years of dialogue by my predecessor Javier Solana has not brought us to the outcome that we would wish. And so we do have to consider what else needs to be done, and we stand ready to do that."[21] Lady Ashton did not, however, specify what she was prepared to do if the status quo on the Iran nuclear issues remained. Asked to elaborate on the Iranian issue, especially on E-3+3 cooperation and next steps, Lady Ashton volunteered that "in terms of E-3+3, it is very important that we do this in a measured and collective way. And there are very clear steps that we now need to take together to move forward, and that, we have to do. This is not about rushing into, but is about determined and concerted steps. And that's what you'll see happen."[22]

Lady Ashton revisited the Iranian issue together with the EU foreign minister a week after meeting with Secretary Clinton, again demonstrating a lack of specifics as well as the difficulty the EU's top diplomat was facing. "We just have to wait and see what comes out of the discussions of the Security Council," Lady Ashton remarked, deferring to the UN executive body.[23] The views of other European nations, however, differed. "The sanction instrument is a very blunt one, so it should be used with extreme care," said Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, while other European countries, including France, have been supportive of further sanctions.[24]

At the Munich Security Conference on February 6, Lady Ashton remained engaged on the Iran issue and provided a more substantive approach vis-à-vis Tehran. After thanking the Iranian Foreign Minister for being in attendance, she asked that Tehran be more transparent and responsive to the International Atomic Energy Agency, especially with regard to the proposal at the time concerning the refueling of the Tehran research reactor. She also sharpened her tone and suggested that Iran had not adequately responded to the engagement efforts by President Barack Obama. Lady Ashton then criticized Iran for continuing clandestine work on its nuclear program outside of its safeguards obligations during the previous negotiations headed by her predecessor. Finally, she said that while she believed that talks with Iran had not been exhausted, "dialogue takes two."[25]

In light of Iran's February 7, 2010 announcement that the country intended to enrich uranium up to the level of 20 percent, Lady Ashton's office put out a statement saying that "Iran's enrichment activity is contrary to several Security Council Resolutions" and "adds to the deficit of confidence in the nature of Iran's nuclear programme. This has already been aggravated by Iran's unwillingness to engage in meaningful talks."[26] As to what the EU was ready to do specifically, Lady Ashton kept to previous policy: "The EU will continue to review all aspects of the Iranian nuclear issue on the basis of its dual-track approach and, as the European Council stated in its declaration of December 2009, stands ready to take the necessary steps to accompany the UNSC process," the statement read.[27]

In March, during an EU Parliamentary debate with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference fast approaching, Lady Ashton highlighted the concern that the Iranian nuclear issue may have an impact on the outcome of the meeting's outcome. She added again the EU's continued commitment to the UN Security Council process vis-à-vis Iran and said that the organization remained committed to a diplomatic solution.[28] Lady Ashton's focus on the Iran nuclear issue and the Middle East at large was demonstrated by her trip to the region with Cairo, Egypt as her first stop on a multi-country visit. Speaking at the League of Arab States Lady Ashton stated that the [the EU] remain[s] deeply concerned about…Iranian unwillingness to engage in serious talks on the nuclear question.[29] Reiterating previous positions on the UN Security Council and commitment to the double track approach, Lady Ashton added that the EU fears a nuclear Iran may set off a ripple effect in the region. "Our position is based on the firm belief that an Iran with nuclear weapons risks triggering a proliferation cascade throughout the Middle East. This is the last thing that this region needs. A nuclear weapons free Middle East remains a European goal."[30]

As outlined above, Lady Ashton has continuously made statements on the Iranian nuclear issue, however, she has volunteered little information on the EU policy toward North Korea. Of course, Iranian nuclear missiles could reach the EU territory, while that is not the case with North Korea. However, Lady Ashton has said that the nuclear issue in East Asia is important and that dialogue with strategic partners, including the United States, would be necessary.[31] She has admitted that she does not have a background with the North Korean nuclear issue.

Leading up to the NPT Review Conference, the EU released a Common Position that mentioned Iran and North Korea as major proliferation challenges and called on the international community "to face up to [these countries] and stressing the need to take resolute action in response." [32] Lady Ashton's remarks at the NPT Review Conference mirrored the EU Common Position, but while diplomats were meeting in New York City, she announced that she stood ready to meet with Iran to discuss Tehran's nuclear program. Iranian officials agreed in principle to meet with Lady Ashton, but at the time of writing talks had not come to fruition. In the aftermath of the June UN Security Council sanctions Resolution Lady Ashton again said she was willing to discuss with Iran and that diplomacy with Iran would continue notwithstanding the UN Security Council measure.[33]

It is highly unlikely that Lady Ashton will play a similar role in negotiations with Iran to that of her predecessor. Lady Ashton does not bring the specific knowledge to the table that Solana did, and in contrast to the majority of Solana's tenure, the United States now seemed to have taken the reins in dealing with the Iranian nuclear program. When it comes to Iran, and her ability to play a role in managing that issue for the Europeans, she does, however, have perhaps the most important endorsement: that of her predecessor. Asked if he had any advice for Lady Ashton, Solana responded, "She doesn't need advice, she knows very well what has to be done and I'm sure she will do it in a very, very good manner."[34]

Nonproliferation Meetings and Treaties

Upon taking office, Lady Ashton expressed hope that the EU would speak with one clear voice at the NPT Review Conference 2010. The Common Position represents preparation to that end and Lady Ashton delivered remarks on behalf of the EU during the meeting based on the document. Prior to the meeting in New York City, Lady Ashton discussed nonproliferation issues in her address to the Munich Security Conference in February where she acknowledged both that "[T]he NPT has served us well" but also that "it is under pressure." She went on to comment on two of the three pillars of the treaty stating that "We have to take clear action against those that are not in compliance with the treaty but also provide access to civil nuclear technology to those who want it with proper safeguards. The upcoming Review Conference must be a success."[35] The third pillar, disarmament, was notably left out. Likely this is due to her representation of both nuclear weapons states, specifically the United Kingdom and France, and non nuclear weapons states. During the March EU Parliamentary debate noted above, Lady Ashton again noted that "the entire treaty-based non-proliferation system with the NPT as a corner-stone is under growing pressure. To respond we should be ready to make our contribution."[36]

During the NPT conference several of the EU countries broke away from the EU and formed additional coalitions. This pattern was in line with behavior by the EU states at previous NPT Review Conferences. The EU member states, and previously member states of the European Economic Community, have experienced significant obstacles to speaking with a unified voice at NPT meetings due to national ambitions and regional non-cohesion. The EU states have formed coalitions with non-EU member states and non-nuclear EU states have criticized France and the UK for not doing enough to get rid of their nuclear arsenals.[37] Even amid E3/EU-Iran negotiations in 2004, Sweden, Greece, and Finland openly stated that as long as the nuclear weapon states did not make progress on disarmament, a tougher stance on Iran would be "less credible."[38]

Prior to the NPT Review Conference, the EU prepared for the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April. In anticipation of that meeting Lady Ashton stated in Strasbourg in March that the EU supported the goal of the summit and that "since 2004, the EU has been providing support to the IAEA to assist countries in this area and we will continue to do so."[39] Throughout the meeting, the EU was represented by the new EU Council president Rompuy.

In connection to the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty concluded by the United States and Russia early April, Lady Ashton released a statement saying that the treaty represented "remarkable progress in the fulfillment of the disarmament obligations of the parties. It enhances the security of the contracting parties and of the international community as a whole."[40] Lady Ashton also tied in the new START agreement hoping it would help making the NPT Review Conference a success. "The conclusion of [the new START] will send a strong positive signal to the [NPT] Review Conference…and will accelerate the global disarmament efforts."[41]

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons

When it comes to endorsing wholeheartedly the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons Lady Ashton finds herself in a peculiar position. On the one hand she is on the record as an advocate for nuclear disarmament, but on the other hand, as noted above, she is speaking on behalf of both nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states, and some relying on U.S. nuclear extended deterrence. While referring to President Obama's statements on nonproliferation and disarmament as "significant" during her confirmation hearing, Lady Ashton went on to say, "We know that individual member states within the European Union have got strong views and we need to work effectively towards that…At least my background gives you the commitment that I am interested in [disarmament] issues and I'll do my best, but I'll try and do it in a way that brings everyone along with me."[42]

Her background includes the involvement in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Her participation in CND became a considerable point of contention after it was announced that she would hold the EU's top foreign policy position. Lady Ashton served as vice-chair and treasurer of the CND, an organization that inter alia advocates for unilateral disarmament. Asked whether she still believed in the organization's approach to the issue, Lady Ashton distanced herself by saying, "what was relevant in the 1970s is not relevant now and I do not believe that that strategy is now appropriate."[43] In her previous encounter with the European Parliament on December 2, 2009, she was pressed by a UK Independence Party MEP on whether CND had ever received money from the Soviet Union, which allegedly funded the organization to weaken the West. "I did not take any money direct from a communist country," she responded, explaining that 38 percent of the funding in 1983 was collected out on the streets in buckets and therefore not part of the audited money.[44] There is no evidence of any wrongdoing on Lady Ashton's behalf as member of CND.

Conclusion: It Is Up to Lady Ashton

Upon taking office, a basic framework for Lady Ashton's new role was set up, but how the position will emerge and what issues will prevail is largely up to her. Commenting on her new post early on, Lady Ashton recognized the vague job description: "I do not have an office, I do not have a Cabinet, I do not have a team," she said. "I inherited a blank piece of paper, and at the moment I have written one or two small things on it."[45]

Some observers commentated on the importance of Lady Ashton asserting herself early on as the head of the EU foreign policy, and as noted above there are different opinions on whether she has done so successfully. Said one follower of EU affairs: "The decisive factor will be the respect that member states show for the role. [If Ashton] gets rebuked two or three times on high profile issues…we may have to wait another decade before anything serious changes."[46] However, it is not too late for Lady Ashton to ride out the storm that has continued to mount against her at the head of foreign policy. Her position is a five year term and she still has many opportunities to deliver European successes on the international stage, although the patience among her supporters in the EU bureaucracy and among EU countries will not last forever.

Notwithstanding the criticism against Ashton, when it comes to nonproliferation issues, however, although she has not yet made any major policy proposal in this area, she may possess the right skill set to make an impact in terms of the EU's most important role as a force for WMD nonproliferation efforts; namely its ability to be a multilateral, momentum-increasing, and capacity-building entity that seeks long-term solutions. The EU's greatest strength "continues to lie in multilateral settings where the power of 27 countries moving in the same direction always creates momentum," said one prominent European observer.[47] To that end, other commentators have raised the importance of Lady Ashton as a consensus-builder, recognizing that skill set as a key component necessary to lead the EU's foreign policy efforts. Daniel Korski, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, writes: "Steps toward greater policy coherence will be crucial if European governments want to have a greater impact abroad than merely through the magnetic pull of EU membership. [President Van Rompuy and Lady Ashton] seem well placed to build consensus for such a system. Chosen unanimously, backed by big and small states alike, and representing both Right and Left, the Rompuy-Ashton team is more likely to bring the EU governments, European legislatures and the European Parliament with them, than would have, say, Tony Blair or Massimo D'Alema [other contenders for the job]."[48]

A myriad of ongoing EU efforts focus on WMD nonproliferation. These include strengthening both the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), as well as seeking the universalisation and reinforcement of multilateral agreements in the fields of nonproliferation and WMD delivery vehicles.[49] In the past 10 years, the European Council has adopted 20 Joint Actions with a view to increasing the impact of, inter alia, the BWC, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and UN Security Council Resolution 1540. A number of Council Decisions have also been adopted aiming to achieve entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the strengthening of the OPCW, and nonproliferation of ballistic missiles.[50] The EU member states have also provided assistance to Russia with a view to helping Moscow meet its obligations under the CWC, as well as securing its nuclear sites.[51] Further, in 2003, the European Council adopted a nonproliferation clause to be implemented in all agreements with third parties, including trade and other economic measures. Under the terms of the clause, parties agree to, among other things, take "steps to sign, ratify, or accede to, as appropriate, and fully implement all other relevant international instruments" in the area of WMD nonproliferation and to establish effective national export control system. The EU is also a strong supporter of the Proliferation Security Initiative.[52]

The EU's efforts have and continue to yield positive results. In recent years, for example, several states have acceded to the CWC, EU countries have contributed financially toward the construction of the Shchuch'ye chemical weapons destruction facility in Russia, and capacity-building efforts in third countries have contributed to further implementation of UNSCR 1540.[53] With regard to the CTBT, the EU has focused on training monitoring staff and upgrading equipment in order to strengthen the monitoring system's ability to detect nuclear tests worldwide and hence increase its credibility. To date, the CTBTO has 249 monitoring facilities at its disposal around the globe, 29 are under construction, and an additional 33 facilities are planned.[54] The EU's outreach emphasis has been on Annex II countries, particularly China, which has yet to ratify the CTBT. Furthermore, with regard to financial support for various WMD nonproliferation activities, under the Commission's "Instruments for Stability," €51.5 million has been allocated since 2007 "to projects combating proliferation of material that may be used in WMD, including fighting illicit trafficking, increasing bio safety and bio security, and supporting the redirection of scientists previously involved in WMD activities." [55] An additional example of the EU activity in nonproliferation includes the aforementioned, ongoing implementation of the New Lines for Action. The successful implementation of the New Lines for Action will to a large extent depend on Lady Ashton's ability to acclimatize to her new job successfully.

Looking ahead, the EU will continue to position itself as a global player and Lady Ashton's portfolio will include a diverse number of issues, including, energy security, illegal immigration, climate change, regional conflicts, EU enlargement, terrorism, and heading the EU's response to international catastrophes, such as the one in Haiti. WMD nonproliferation will also be high on that list we have learned this spring and Lady Ashton's most trying time as an EU official, without a doubt, lies ahead of her.


[1] "Behold, two mediocre mice," The Economist, November 28, 2009. The Economist wrote that by selecting Von Rompuy and Ashton, the institution had made itself look ridiculous.
[2] Comment by MEP Charles Tannock, a British Tory, at Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland's address to the Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels on December 2, 2009.
[3] Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland address to the Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels on December 2, 2009.
[4] Jonathan Oliver, Isabel Oakeshott and Bojan Pancevski, "Baroness Ashton: EU Couldn't Make it Up," November 22, 2009, The Times,
[5] Jonathan Oliver, Isabel Oakeshott and Bojan Pancevski, "Baroness Ashton: EU Couldn't Make it Up," November 22, 2009, The Times,
[6] David Charter, "Baroness Ashton faces first big international test with Middle East trip," Times Online, March 15, 2010; Laurence Peter, "UK's Ashton takes flak in EU diplomatic battle," BBC News, March 3, 2010; Ian Traynor, "Germany and France dispute Lady Ashton's 'excessive' EU powers," The Guardian, February 28, 2010; Ian Traynor, "Lady Ashton secures key powers in Europe's new diplomatic service," The Guardian, March 24, 2010. The EEAS will consist of thousands of employees worldwide and Lady Ashton will also manage a budget of about $6 billion – hence the importance of who has power over what.
[7] David Charter, "Baroness Ashton faces first big international test with Middle East trip," Times Online, March 15, 2010; Laurence Peter, "UK's Ashton takes flak in EU diplomatic battle," BBC News, March 3, 2010.
[8] Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland address to the Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels on December 2, 2009.
[9] Lady Ashton, "Quiet Diplomacy will get our voice heard", The Times, December 17, 2009,
[10] The European Security Strategy of 2003,
[11] "New lines for action," Council of the European Union, December 17, 2008,
[12] Lady Ashton, "Answers to European Parliament Questionnaire for Commissioner-Designate," January 6, 2010,
[13] Commissioner-Designate hearings in European Parliament, January 11, 2010.
[14] Commissioner-Designate hearings in European Parliament, January 11, 2010.
[15] Commissioner-Designate hearings in European Parliament, January 11, 2010.
[16] Commissioner-Designate hearings in European Parliament, January 11, 2010.
[17] Commissioner-Designate hearings in European Parliament, January 11, 2010.
[18] Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland address to the Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels on December 2, 2009.
[19] European Union press release, October 15, 2009,
[20] For example, in May 2009 Ashton pushed through agreement with US regarding an EU ban on US beef imports without having to resort to lengthy legal action in the World Trade organization. [Darren Ennis, "Beef catalyst for EU, US trade deals-Ashton," Reuters, May 7, 2009,]
[21] Remarks with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton after their meeting, U.S. Department of State document, January 21, 2010.
[22] Remarks with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton after their meeting, U.S. Department of State document, January 21, 2010.
[23] Patrick Goodenough, CNSNEWS.COM, January 26, 2010,
[24] Patrick Goodenough, CNSNEWS.COM, January 26, 2010,
[25] Remarks by HR Catherine Ashton at the Munich Security Conference, February 6, 2010.
[26] Statement by HR Catherine Ashton, on Iranian nuclear activities, February 9, 2010.
[27] Statement by HR Catherine Ashton, on Iranian nuclear activities, February 9, 2010.
[28] Catherine Ashton High Representative / Vice President, Joint Debate on Foreign and Security Policy, European Parliament, Strasbourg, 10 March 2010.
[29] Speech by HR Catherine Ashton at the League of Arab States, "A Commitment to Peace – the European Union and the Middle East, 15 March, 2010.
[30] Speech by HR Catherine Ashton at the League of Arab States, "A Commitment to Peace – the European Union and the Middle East, 15 March, 2010.
[31] "Europe's new foreign policy chief: a depressing start," Charlemagne's Notebook,, The Economist online, January 11, 2010,
[32] European Council Common Position, adopted by the European Council on March 29, 2010.
[33] "EU Moves Toward Imposing Further Iran Penalties," Global Security Newswire, June 15, 2010.
[34] "Catherine Ashton Prepares to replace Javier Solana as EU foreign chief," Telegraph, December 1, 2009,
[35] Remarks by HR Catherine Ashton, at the Munich Security Conference, February 6, 2010,
[36] Catherine Ashton High Representative / Vice President, Joint Debate on Foreign and Security Policy, European Parliament, Strasbourg, 10 March 2010.
[37] For example the G-11 and the New Agenda Coalition. G-11 refers to a group of states, consisting of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Hungary, Denmark, Austria, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden, that in 1980 began preparing joint positions in advance of NPT Review Conferences. The New Agenda Coalition was launched in 1998 by the foreign ministers of eight non-nuclear nations – Ireland, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Slovenia, and Sweden – with the purpose of pressuring the nuclear-weapon states to fulfill the obligation they undertook in Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to eliminate nuclear arsenals.
[38] Monika Tocha, "The EU and Iran's Nuclear Programme: Testing the Limits of Coercive Diplomacy," EU Diplomacy Papers, No. 1 (2009), p. 11.
[39] Speech by High Representative Catherine Ashton at the Joint Debate on Foreign and Security Policy, European Parliament, Strasbourg, March 10, 2010,
[40] Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton on agreement between the United States and Russian on a new strategic arms reduction treaty (START), March 27, 2010.
[41] Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton on agreement between the United States and Russian on a new strategic arms reduction treaty (START), March 27, 2010.
[42] Commissioner-Designate hearings in European Parliament, January 11, 2010.
[43] Commissioner-Designate hearings in European Parliament, January 11, 2010.
[44] Lady Ashton Question and Answer with the Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels on 2 December 2009.45 Commissioner-Designate hearings in European Parliament, January 11, 2010.
[45] Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland address to the Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels on December 2, 2009.
[46] "Ashton to fight for EU leaders' 'respect', " December 18, 2009,
[47] Harald Müller, Executive Director, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, email correspondence with author, November 9, 2009.
[48] Daniel Korski, "Europe's new leaders," European Council on Foreign Relations, November 20, 2009,
[49] European Council Common Position 2007/469/CFSP, June 28, 2007; European Council Common Position 2006/242/CFSP, March 20, 2006; European Council Common Position 2003/805/CFSP, November 17, 2003.
[50] European Council Decision 2003/567/CFSP, July 21, 2003; European Council Decision 2009/569/CFSP, July 27, 2009; European Council Decision 2008/974/CFSP, December 18, 2008.
[51] European Council Joint Action 2007/178/CFSP, March 19, 2007. Under said Joint Action EU committed €3,145,000 toward the construction of Shchuch'ye chemical weapons destruction facility in Russia; European Council Joint Action 2004/796/CFSP, November 22, 2004.
[52] Statement by Annalisa Giannella, Personal Representative on Nonproliferation of WMD to the EU High Representative Javier Solana, to regional Proliferation Security Initiative meeting in Sopot, Poland, June 22, 2009; EU Statement 14813/03 PESC 673 CODUN 45 CONOP 54 COARM 16 + COR 1, November 19, 2003.
[53] It is difficult to determine the exact impact of the EU, but it should not be disregarded that the EU's financial support and capacity-building initiatives in third countries have not played a role in increasing the number of CWC member states and improving implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. Also, as noted above EU coutries contributed financially toward the destruction of chemical and nuclear materials.
[54] Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization World Map of International Monitoring Stations.
[55] European Council Six-monthly Progress Report on the implementation of the EU Strategy against the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (2009/I), June 26, 2009.

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