Italian FM chosen as new EU foreign policy chief

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was chosen as the Council’s new chief

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Leaders of the European Union have chosen Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini as their new foreign policy chief, while Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has become the new chairman, outgoing European Council President Herman Van Rompuy announced on Saturday.

“The European Council has elected PM Donald Tusk as the next President of the European Council & Euro Summits,” Van Rompuy tweeted.

“The European Council has appointed FM Federica Mogherini as the next EU High Representative,” he added.

Mogherini, a41-year-old center-left politician, has been Italy’s foreign minister only since February, drawing criticism that she lacks experience.

Addressing the criticism, Mogherini said she will draw on her experience as foreign minister of a Group of Seven country and her past experience as lawmaker.

"I think the institutional experience is very important - I have some - but I also think that the experience that one gains through the work in political life and civil society is also of value," she told reporters.

The decision comes as the crisis at the EU's eastern border pitting Ukraine against Russia poses one of the biggest foreign policy challenges for the bloc in decades.

"Federica Mogherini will be the new face of the European Union in our day-today dealings with our partners in the world," outgoing EU summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy said. Incumbent EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, whose term ends in October, has been a frequent interlocutor for U.S. secretaries of state and chairs the negotiations on Iran's nuclear program.

The highly visible job as EU foreign policy chief entails flying across the world and hobnobbing with the great and powerful to deal with anything from the fighting in eastern Ukraine to the crises in the Middle East.

However, the EU's top diplomat often has had little leeway because the bloc's member nations jealously guarded foreign policy as a national matter, leaving the foreign policy chief the role to hammer out compromise positions.

Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Europe think-tank in Brussels, said earlier this week the new EU foreign policy chief "has neither the battalions nor the budget to single-handedly make foreign policy," but must do a better job than Ashton at coordinating the EU's different departments and mustering the courage to oppose powerful member states when necessary.

"The EU needs a unified foreign policy," he said.

Mogherini vowed she will work relentlessly to promote European projects on the international stage, while fighting off crises or seeds of discord that could undermine the bloc's success.

"We are a dream come true, having to be careful that the dream doesn't turn into a nightmare," she said.

(With AP)

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