Brussels: The EU's first president Herman Van Rompuy takes office on Tuesday, along with foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, hoping to boost Europe's global standing amid criticism of the low-profile pairing.
The two top jobs are enshrined in the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, which enters into force on December 1, ending 10 years of European institutional navel-gazing.
The treaty, successor to the aborted EU Constitution, is aimed at streamlining an expanded bloc and boosting its voice on the world stage. It will also reinforce the EU Parliament's role and cut the number of national vetoes on European policy.
But most attention is on the two new top jobs, designed also to give the EU a human face.
The coupling of Van Rompuy, who resigned as Belgian PM to take the top EU job, and British peer Ashton, who leaves her stewardship of the EU trade commission, has raised eyebrows as well as hopes.
"EU leaders have continued the job of weakening the EU institutions," opined EU Greens co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit, after European leaders nominated the pair earlier this month.
Bendit described the 62-year-old Van Rompuy as "bland" and Ashton as "unremarkable”.
First Published: Sunday, November 29, 2009, 13:19