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MEPs Disappointed by Baroness Ashton

Tuesday, 12th January 2010

MEPs Roger Helmer and Emma McClarkin are disappointed but unsurprised by the performance of Baroness Ashton, the newly appointed High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in a three hour question and answer session with MEPs. Many MEPs, including Mr Helmer and Miss McClarkin, were left frustrated by the limited grasp of her brief, and questions are being asked across Brussels as to whether she is up to the job.

She was appointed the powerful post of the EU’s voice on the world stage in November after the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. From that day on MEPs across all parties have been anxious about her lack of experience in international relations and yesterday’s hearing confirmed their fears.

One area of significant questioning was on her previous role as treasurer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) at the height of the Cold War. In response to Charles Tannock, a Conservative MEP, she stated that she now considered the CND’s strategy as inappropriate, yet admitted, in an answer to another MEP, that she believed she had been right to march for nuclear disarmament.

Mr Helmer comments that “it is gravely worrying that this unelected official, whose responsibilities include shaping the EU’s relationship with Washington, Moscow and Beijing, should be inherently unsure of the role of a strategic nuclear deterrent. Nuclear weapons will never be uninvented and will remain a significant element of the issues of international security.

“Baroness Ashton’s inexperience in matters of security is clear and elected MEPs have a duty to their constituents to monitor and challenge any ignorant moves led by Baroness Ashton.”

Baroness Ashton had been tasked with setting up an independent EU diplomatic service (European External Action Service) but has chosen to base her office in Brussels executive’s headquarters.

Emma McClarkin comments that “this is a clear sign that the Lisbon Treaty was indeed a step to inflate the already soaring levels of bureaucracy of the EU. Decisions on foreign affairs in the EU could travel further away from the European citizens’ wishes towards an undemocratic maze of bureaucracy in Brussels.

“This is something I feel passionate to fight against on behalf of my constituents in the East Midlands and will assess the development of the EU diplomatic service over the coming months very closely.”