The EU’s epic folly in appointing arguably the least qualified candidate in Europe to its newly-created post of Foreign Minister, continues to rebound on the struggling organization. The never-elected Cathy Ashton, whose resume boasts no diplomatic experience at all, has appeared before the European Parliament a second time to face questions from its members about her suitability to be Europe’s top diplomat.
When asked about whether the EU should replace France and Britain in a single seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), she embarrassingly admitted she knew nothing about the topic, despite clauses in the EU’s Lisbon Treaty granting the EU rights to speak for its members in the UNSC in certain circumstances. For good measure, she added: “You’ve caught me out.”
When asked about her strident advocacy of unilateral nuclear disarmament in the 1980’s, she boasted that her opinion was formed having never visited Eastern Europe but may have changed later in life. Not exactly inspired thinking from the diplomat representing 27 countries including most of Eastern Europe.
Incredibly, despite owing her appointment exclusively to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown whose government allied with the U.S. to lead Operation Iraqi Freedom, she refused to answer the question of whether or not the war was justified. And her solution for Afghanistan? Make sure the Afghan police force have enough telephones!
Cathy Ashton has achieved the virtual impossible, and is drawing fire from both the left and right in Europe. Even Lisbon Treaty drafter and arch-EU integrationist Elmar Brok said her performance provided, “no reason for enthusiasm.” However, due to the opaque and insensible rules governing EU institutions, the European Parliament has no power to veto individual unsuitable nominees, making the whole process of confirmation nothing more than a three-ring circus.
Cathy Ashton will likely survive and will create a diplomatic service of over 5,000 staffers in the coming months. However, the EU should ask itself whether a person who considers herself incapable of commenting on the biggest foreign policy questions of the day is suitable to lead international relations for 500 million people. Or if the EU really needs this post at all.