High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy: Wikis


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High Representative
of the Union for
Foreign Affairs
and Security Policy
Catherine Ashton

since December 2009
Appointer The European Council with the consent of the President of the European Commission
Term length five years
Inaugural holder Jürgen Trumpf (CFSP)
Catherine Ashton (FASP)
Formation 1999 (CFSP)
2009 (FASP)
Deputy Presidency foreign minister
Website Council Commission

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR) is the main co-ordinator and representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) within the European Union (EU). The position is currently held by Catherine Ashton[1] and will be backed up by the European External Action Service once it is established.

The post was introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam as the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy; it was then occupied by Javier Solana for ten years until it was expanded by the Lisbon Treaty to sit in the European Commission and chair the council of EU foreign ministers. The United States Clinton Administration claimed[citation needed] in May 2000 that the post was the fulfilment of Henry Kissinger's desire to have a phone number to talk to Europe (“Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” – Henry Kissinger).



The High Representative is formally titled the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. However it was formerly titled the High Representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and was, under the European Constitution, to be titled the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs. This latter title, as EU Foreign Minister is still applied by commentators and sections of the media as a publicly-recognisable short hand for the post.


The post was introduced under the Treaty of Amsterdam and was occupied by Javier Solana. However that post was radically more limited that the present post created in 2009 by the Lisbon Treaty which has now been handed to Catherine Ashton. The innovations under Lisbon were originally included in the European Constitution which was never ratified.



Javier Solana with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

The Treaty of Amsterdam introduced the post of High Representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy to represent the EU on the world stage. It was decided that the Secretary-General of the Council would be the High Representative. This meant that the Secretary-General at the time, Jürgen Trumpf was the first High Representative, although he would only serve a few months. During the tenure of Javier Solana, the position was expanded rapidly, with several more functions combined into the function of High Representative for the CFSP. Solana operated as a quiet diplomat and found himself frequently pushed to the side in negotiations and sent on missions known to be impossible.[2]

Lisbon Treaty

The European Constitution proposed to merge the European Commissioner for External Relations with the High Representative to create a Union Minister for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. However, the Constitution failed to be ratified but its replacement, the Treaty of Lisbon, retained the change under a different name. The new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy would still merge the External Relations Commissioner with the High Representative and, like the Constitution, would have it backed up by an External Action Service.[3][4] The new role also took over other foreign affairs roles, such as chairing the Foreign Affairs Council and representing the EU in international fora, roles which were previously exercised by the foreign minister of the country holding the presidency of the European Union (along with the foreign minister of the country previously holding the presidency and the one to take it next).

Despite the name change, many parts of the media still referred to it as a foreign minister and in negotiations it was decided that the High Representative would no long also be the Council's Secretary-General but would be a Vice-President of the European Commission, filling the now merged Commission post.[4] The merger of the two posts has been seen as furthering the answer to Kissinger's question:

The creation of a High Representative for foreign policy, or, better still, a Minister for foreign affairs would be a big change compared with the current situation. It would put an end to the double job which exists between the current function of Mr Javier Solana, and that carried out within the Commission by Mme Benita Ferrero-Waldner, in charge of the external aid of the EU. One and the same person would therefore deal with problems and respond to the famous telephone calls of Henry Kissinger: ‘ I want to speak to Europe.’ ”
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in his blog, 5 July 2007 [5]


High Representative Ashton with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Although Javier Solana was originally selected to be the first Foreign Minister the delays in introducing the post meant after 10 years of service he stood aside for a new candidate. After numerous candidates were put forward, EU leaders agreed on Catherine Ashton from the United Kingdom as the first merged High Representative. Ashton was previously the European Commissioner for Trade and otherwise had no foreign affairs experience. Ashton unexpectedly came to the top of the shortlist when she was nominated unanimously by the centre-left leaders who claimed the post.[6][7] Ashton needs to be confirmed by the European Parliament before she can take up the post. In the same European Council meeting, Pierre de Boissieu was appointed Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union, showing that the High Representative and the Secretary-General will no longer be the same person.[8]

Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake Ashton chaired a meeting of the foreign relations, development and environment DGs and experts from the Council and the Situation Centre (the EU intelligence-gathering agency). There they agreed on €3 million in aid, to look for further financial assistance, to send personnel to assess the situation and to co-ordinate pledges from member states. Ashton then chaired a meeting of member states' ambassadors and acted as a general co-ordinator; for example contacts from the UN went via Ashton. Although she refused to describe it as the first act of the external action service, Ashton did emphasise that it was the first time that such a co-ordination between all the various EU foreign policy actors had been accomplished before. Spain, which holds the rotating Council presidency that would have taken charge before the Lisbon Treaty, took a back seat though has been assisting, for example in offering use of the Spanish base in Panama. However, the majority of aid relief was dealt with bilaterally between Haiti and individual member states[9] and Ashton was criticised afterward for being one of the few foreign representatives not to travel to Haiti personally.[10] Despite EU ministers then agreeing to deploy European gendarmes, criticism was levied at Ashton for failing to improve the EU's international profile during the crisis. Ashton replied stating that "There's been a recognition from the people of Haiti, the US, the UN and others of the extremely important role the EU has played. On the main issue, we should ask, have we tried to save lives, to support the people of Haiti? Yes we have."[11]


European Union
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This article is part of the series:
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Where foreign policy is agreed between EU member states, the High Representative can speak for the EU in that area, such as negotiating on behalf of the member states. The representative co-ordinates the work of the Special Representatives as well as other appointments such as anti-terrorist co-ordinator. S/he makes reports and proposals for the Council and as Council Secretary-General the High Representative examines and prepares most decisions before they are presented for decision.

According to proposals made in 2009 by the Swedish EU presidency, the High Representative will control the staffing and budget of the EEAS, and propose the size of budget to be allocated. The High Representative is responsible for appointing EEAS staff and for controlling general foreign policy (outside of trade, development and enlargement which has to be made together with the Commission) including security initiatives and intelligence sharing. However, although the High Representative may prepare initiatives, decisions will still have to be taken by the member states in Council. The High Representative would also have to report to Parliament.[12]

While there has been some criticism of the vague division of powers between the EU's top players, Ukrainian ambassador to the EU Andriy Veselovsky praised the framework and clarified it in his own terms: The President of the European Commission speaks as the EU's "government" while the President of the European Council is a "strategist". The High Representative specialises in "bilateral relations" while the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy deals in technical matters such as the free trade agreement with Ukraine. The President of the European Parliament meanwhile articulates the EU's values.[13]

With the growth in role of the High Representative, and their exclusion from the European Council, the national foreign ministers are now uncertain of their role vs the High Representative. At an informal meeting in Finland it was mooted that they could serve as special envoys on the High Representative's behalf. This has been backed by Ashton who said that so long as the EU spoke with one voice, it didn't matter who was speaking.[14]

Treaty basis

The Treaty on European Union, as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon, provides in Article 15(2):

The European Council shall consist of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, together with its President and the President of the Commission. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall take part in its work.

and in Article 18:

  1. The European Council, acting by a qualified majority, with the agreement of the President of the Commission, shall appoint the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The European Council may end his term of office by the same procedure.
  2. The High Representative shall conduct the Union's common foreign and security policy. He shall contribute by his proposals to the development of that policy, which he shall carry out as mandated by the Council. The same shall apply to the common security and defence policy.
  3. The High Representative shall preside over the Foreign Affairs Council.
  4. The High Representative shall be one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission. He shall ensure the consistency of the Union's external action. He shall be responsible within the Commission for responsibilities incumbent on it in external relations and for coordinating other aspects of the Union's external action. In exercising these responsibilities within the Commission, and only for these responsibilities, the High Representative shall be bound by Commission procedures to the extent that this is consistent with paragraphs 2 and 3.
—C 115/26 EN Official Journal of the European Union 9.5.2008


The High Representative is appointed by the European Council acting by qualified majority. However in order to take up their role in the Commission, in particular as a Vice President, the High Representative has to appear before Parliament for questioning and then be subject to Parliament's vote of approval on the proposed Commission.

List of office holders

Representative State Party In office Notes Photo
Jürgen Trumpf Germany Independent diplomat 1 May 1999[15] 18 October 1999 Appointed by virtue of the
Treaty of Amsterdam
Javier Solana Spain Party of European Socialists
National: PSOE
18 October 1999 1 December 2009 Appointed at the Cologne European
and was Council Secretary-
Msc 2009-Saturday, 16.00 - 19.00 Uhr-Zwez 003 Solana.jpg
Catherine Ashton United Kingdom Party of European Socialists
National: Labour
1 December 2009 incumbent
Expires in 2014
First to take over the post of External
Relations Commissioner
and chair
the Foreign Affairs Council.
Baroness Ashton headshot.jpg

See also


  1. ^ Charlemagne (19 November 2009). "What the EU's new leaders tell us about Europe". The Economist. http://www.economist.com/blogs/charlemagne/eu_top_jobs/. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  2. ^ Euobserver.com
  3. ^ The Minister for Foreign Affairs
  4. ^ a b Honor Mahony: EU leaders scrape treaty deal at 11th hour, EU Observer, 23 June 2007
  5. ^ Valéry Giscard d'Estaing: Quelques réponses (4), in his blog, 5 July 2007
  6. ^ Rettman, Andrew Little-known British peer emerges as top candidate for EU foreign minister, EU Observer 19 November 2009
  7. ^ Mahony, Honor EU chooses unknowns for new top jobs, EU Observer 19 November 2009
  8. ^ Press release, European Council 2009-11-19
  9. ^ Rettman, Andrew (14 January 2009) EU foreign relations chief tests new powers in earthquake response, EU Observer
  10. ^ Mahony, Honor (19 January 2010) Ashton under fire for not going to Haiti, EU Observer
  11. ^ Rettman, Andrew (25 January 2010) EU gendarmes to help build law and order in Haiti, EU Observer
  12. ^ Rettman, Andrew (23 October 2009) EU states envisage new foreign policy giant, EU Observer
  13. ^ Rettman, Andrew (15 March 2010) Ukraine gives positive appraisal of new-model EU, EU Observer
  14. ^ Mahony, Honor (15 March 2010) EU foreign ministers ponder their post-Lisbon role, EU Observer
  15. ^ Appointed Secretary-General of the Council in 1994

External links

Simple English

The High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy is a position created by the Treaty of Lisbon, starting December 1, 2009. The position is part of the European Commission. The first person to be appointed is Ms. Catherine Ashton, but she has not yet been approved by the European Parliament.

Her duty is to be the face of European Union to the rest of the world, along with the President of Europe

The job is sometimes known casually a "the European Foreign Minister" but this is not correct because she is not a member of any government.


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