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Lukewarm' reception to EU's new leaders

PUBLISHED: 15:32 25 November 2009 | UPDATED: 17:22 25 August 2010

BRITISH MEPs have given a lukewarm reception to the lightweights appointed to the European Union s new top jobs. Current Prime Minister of Belgium, Herman Van Rompuy, is due to take up the post of President of the European Council on December 1.

BRITISH MEPs have given a lukewarm reception to the 'lightweights' appointed to the European Union's new top jobs.

Current Prime Minister of Belgium, Herman Van Rompuy, is due to take up the post of President of the European Council on December 1.

And Baroness Ashton was also appointedlast Thursday to the role of High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.

Green MEP Jean Lambert said: "The European Council has played it safe, but their choices will not help the EU be more visible or feel closer to the public. They will not give the EU any added charisma."

Conservative London MEP Dr Charles Tannock MEP said: "The appointments gives the lie to all those in UKIP who thought we would have unelected heavyweights ruling over us in Europe.

"So we Conservatives who opposed the Lisbon Treaty and the creation of these posts are distinctly relieved. Both figures are unknown political lightweights and Cathy Ashton has never been elected to any public office, never held a seriously high ministerial office of state and certainly has no experience in the foreign affairs field whatsoever.

"Her only redeeming feature is that she will do nothing controversial.

"Certainly we Conservatives can do business with both of them, and of course Baroness Ashton might consider offering her resignation when we Conservatives are elected to the UK government so we can send a heavyweight candidate to occupy a strong economic portfolio as EU Commissioner, which is our priority in the workings of the EU and not the high rep job which she holds double-hatted along with Vice President of the Commission."

Labour MEP Claude Moraes wanted to see Tony Blair take the President's role. He said: "There is a big surge in Eurosceptism and there is no break on it.

"Blair would have communicated the EU business well and he would have understood the difficulties the British public have with the EU. It is a communication role and an organisational role.

"The Eurosceptics didn't want Tony Blair because they didn't want the EU to have a big profile. And now they are saying they have too low a profile. Privately, they will be happy they were low key representatives.

"The EU has gone for capability and organisation in the two people chosen."

Asked why Blair dropped out before the vote Mr Moraes said with a small electorate of 27 people, candidates soon get a gist of who is in and out of favour.

He said: "The French wanted to see a centre right Christian Democratic.

"A lot of Eastern Democratic countries wanted Tony Blair but the bigger countries have more voting power."

marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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