Stanley's blog

The following letter will appear in European Voice on 21 January:

Your report of Catherine Ashton’s hearing gave her two stars out of five (“Commissioners’ hearings”, 14-20 January). You found her performance “uninspired and uninspiring” and stated that some members of the European Parliament were “exasperated” at “her evasive replies”. These views seem to echo those of other media commentators.

But are you being fair? The Parliament’s five criteria for judging commissioners designate are: general skills; commitment to Europe; independence; communication skills; and knowledge of portfolio.

Ashton is highly professional, competent and clearly satisfies four criteria. As for the fifth, knowledge of her portfolio, she showed great skill very quickly in mastering her complex trade dossier, and there is no reason to think otherwise in her new portfolio.

Her job is new, and ‘double-hatting’ has never been tried before. Fortunately, Ashton has no plans to strut the world stage but, instead, to build the necessary infrastructure – and in particular the European External Action Service – and to work out harmonious arrangements with the other key players and institutions. She seems eminently suitable for these tasks. Whatever her knowledge, it is entirely inappropriate for her to offer at this stage her personal views on controversial foreign-policy issues. The European Commission is not in this policy area the principal policy initiator.

Stanley Crossick

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