Belgian PM Van Rompuy in as EU president. Sorry, Tony

By Branko Brkic 20 November 2009

Tony Blair dropped out of the running for the first European Council president and Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy has been selected to the post, in part due to French and German support. EU trade commissioner Catherine Ashton was chosen as the new foreign policy head, or high representative. The two positions come into being as the newly ratified Lisbon Treaty comes into force on 1 December, and have been welcomed by among other world leaders, US President Barack Obama. Blair had been an early favourite for president and was the highest-profile candidate in a selection process that had countries weighing whether they wanted a world figure or a more anonymous, “grayer” and entirely less-obvious candidate. That shoe seemed to fit Ashton as the surprise appointment. She will have a budget of billions of euros and a new diplomatic service of up to 5,000 people. Van Rompuy and Ashton would achieve the balance EU leaders seek and both are low-key consensual figures. Leaders also handed a third new post, that of European Council secretary general, to French diplomat Pierre de Boissieu, through until 2011. Read more at the BBC

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