Towards the New European Commission
On Saturday 30 August, the European Council finally decided on the position of the European Union’s High Representative and appointed Italy’s Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini. She will be responsible for coordinating the EU's Common foreign and security policy. At the same time the Heads of State appointed Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as President of the European Council. Tusk will chair and drive the work of the European Council and will facilitate the negotiations in the European Council. Now with the three top positions settled everything is geared towards the selection of the Commissioner designates. This snapshot introduces the new High Representative and the President of the European Council. Federica Mogherini: The new High Representative
Federica Mogherini: The new High Representative
Federica Mogherini, Italy’s Foreign Minister, has been appointed to the position of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs. In spite of the intensity of the campaign against her focusing on her lack of experience, and pro- Russian stance on the Ukraine crisis, Matteo Renzi’s (Italy’s Prime Minister) stubbornness to have Mogherini leading the EU’s External Action Service eventually persuaded the other 27 Member States, including the Eastern countries that first raised questions over her candidature. The fact that she is a woman, socialist and from Southern Europe also played a strong role in the intricate net of EU negotiations.
Federica Mogherini is a 41-year-old politician, barely an adolescent according to Italian standards, but her CV is not as thin as has been portrayed by the media (especially in light of Lady Ashton’s lack of experience when she was appointed). She has been active in politics since her student days, serving on the board of the European Youth Forum where she focused on human rights and international affairs. As she advanced in her career she became increasingly interested in foreign and defence policy and topics ranging from NATO, human rights, the Middle East and relations with the US. On these issues she was particularly vocal as a parliamentarian and, later, secretary of the Italian Parliament’s Defence Committee and President of the Delegation for relations to NATO (the first woman to have held this role).
She spent some time as a Fellow at the German Marshall Fund but her real political capital was gained within the Democratic Party where she held a number of leadership positions and where she is respected for being incredibly hard-working and always well prepared. This was one of the main reasons Renzi chose her for the position of Foreign Minister in spite of her criticising him only months previously on his lack of knowledge of foreign policy.
As a High Representative, one of Federica Mogherini’s first tasks will be to deal with the Ukrainian crisis. Critics fear that her ‘pro-Russia’ stance could get in the way of having a stronger EU position on Russia but the reality is that her take towards the Kremlin has been very much in line with that of other Western Member States. Yes, she visited Putin soon after Italy took up the Italian Presidency, but so have many other European leaders such as French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Yes, she has argued that more dialogue (rather than more forceful measures) is the solution to the Ukrainian situation, but that tends to be the response of many foreign ministers when faced with a crisis. The one factor which might hold more weight is the fact that Italy has a history of strong economic ties to Russia, in particular when it comes to energy policy. Luckily, she will always have 27 other Member States and a Polish President of the European Council to balance this out.