February 16, 2010
Further to the post of 25 January, Baroness Ashton is still under attack for not going to Haiti, notwithstanding that the UN had requested that dignataries do not visit the island, so as not to disrupt the emergency aid activities. She stated then that Development & Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, would go when appropriate.
Apparently overlooking this, the Daily Telegraph of 16 February wrote that her argument that “disaster tourism” would detract from vital humanitarian efforts was left looking silly when De Gucht, was dispatched to Haiti.
The criticism seems to be led by France, supported by Spain. Libération wrote: “It smacks of amateurism, even incompetence.” the paper wrote. France’s Europe Minister Pierre Lellouche deplored the “current void” left by Ashton. “The world does not wait for us,” he told French reporters.
Another French media article apparently alleged that Lady Ashton “switches off her phone after 8pm” and makes off to London every weekend to visit her husband and school-going child, instead of travelling the globe. While some do criticize her for spending most weekends in London and being too close to Whitehall, such complaints are hardly appropriate coming from France.
Maybe the High Representative being a woman and British and not a French speaker has some relevance.
Media reports and some official comments focus on why she is not travelling sufficiently. It is overlooked that she is only three months into a brand new job. She must set up and run a new European foreign office and huge diplomatic corps, the External Action Service, which will take time to put in place. She doesn’t therefore yet have a ‘ministry’.
The Vice-President’s job is not fly around the world seeking photo-ops but to help to forge a common foreign & security policy between 27 sets of national egos. And there are enough problems in doing this without such irresponsible criticism. Talk such as: “She very badly and urgently needs a success story or she will lose this image war,” is wide of the mark.
Finally, while we were expect the EU to be given a more recognisable public profile, the same Member States who now criticize Lady Ashton, helped apppoint a low-key individual with little relevant experience. It hardly behoves them to criticize her low-key approach.Author : Stanley Crossick