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Catherine Ashton

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Catherine Ashton

The Right Honourable
The Baroness Ashton of Upholland
Baroness Ashton in 2014
First Vice President of the European Commission
In office
9 February 2010 – 1 November 2014
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Margot Wallström
Succeeded by Frans Timmermans
High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
In office
1 December 2009 – 1 November 2014
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Javier Solana
Succeeded by Federica Mogherini
European Commissioner for Trade
In office
3 October 2008 – 1 December 2009
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Peter Mandelson
Succeeded by Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Leader of the House of Lords;
Lord President of the Council
In office
27 June 2007 – 3 October 2008
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by The Baroness Amos
Succeeded by The Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
Personal details
Born Catherine Margaret Ashton
(1956-03-20) 20 March 1956
Upholland, United Kingdom
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Peter Kellner (1988–present)
Alma mater University of London

Catherine Margaret Ashton, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, GCMG, PC (born 20 March 1956 at Upholland, Lancashire) is a British Labour politician who served as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and First Vice President of the European Commission in the Barroso Commission from 2009 to 2014.

Her political career began in 1999 when she was created a Life Peer as Baroness Ashton of Upholland, of St Albans, in the County of Hertfordshire[1] by Tony Blair's Labour Government. She became the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Education and Skills in 2001 and subsequently in the Ministry of Justice in 2004. She was appointed a Privy Councillor in May 2006.

Ashton became Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council in Gordon Brown’s first Cabinet in June 2007. She was instrumental in steering the EU's Treaty of Lisbon through the UK Parliament's second chamber. In 2008, she was appointed as the British European Commissioner and became the Commissioner for Trade in the European Commission.[2]

In December 2009, she became the inaugural High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy that was created by the Treaty of Lisbon. As High Representative, Ashton served as the EU's foreign policy chief.[3] Despite being criticised by some, particularly at the time of her appointment and in the early stages of her term of office, for her limited previous experience of international diplomacy, Ashton subsequently won praise for her work as a negotiator in difficult international situations, in particular for her role in bringing Serbia and Kosovo to an agreement in April 2013 that normalised their ties, and in the P5+1 talks with Iran which led to the November 2013 Geneva interim agreement on Iranian nuclear program.[4]


  • Personal life 1
  • Career 2
    • United Kingdom 2.1
    • European Union 2.2
      • Foreign Affairs and Security Policy 2.2.1
      • Notable events of her term as Haut représentant 2.2.2
      • Serbia-Kosovo 2.2.3
      • Iran 2.2.4
      • Ukraine 2.2.5
      • Russia 2.2.6
    • Assessments 2.3
      • Early phase as EU High Representative 2.3.1
      • Later phase as EU High Representative 2.3.2
  • Titles and styles 3
  • Honours and awards 4
    • Awards 4.1
    • Honours 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Personal life

Catherine Ashton was born at Upholland, Lancashire, on 20 March 1956.[5][6] She comes from a working-class family, with a background in coal mining.[7][8]

She attended Upholland Grammar School in Billinge Higher End, Lancashire, then Wigan Mining and Technical College, Wigan. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology in 1977 from Bedford College, London (now part of Royal Holloway, University of London). She was the first person in her family to attend university.[7][8][9][10][11]

Ashton lives in YouGov.[13] She has two children and three stepchildren.[14]


United Kingdom

Between 1977 and 1983, Ashton worked for the

Party political offices
Preceded by
The Baroness Amos
Leader of the Labour Party in the House of Lords
Succeeded by
The Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
Political offices
Preceded by
The Baroness Amos
Leader of the House of Lords
Succeeded by
The Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
Lord President of the Council
Preceded by
Peter Mandelson
British European Commissioner
Succeeded by
The Lord Hill of Oareford
European Commissioner for Trade
Succeeded by
Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Preceded by
Margot Wallström
First Vice President of the European Commission
Succeeded by
Frans Timmermans
Preceded by
Javier Solana
High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Succeeded by
Federica Mogherini
  • EU Vice President Catherine Ashton, Official Media Gallery
  • Ashton as European Commission's Vice President for External Relations (archived website of 2009)
  • HR website in the Council of the European Union
  • Biography from the Department for Constitutional Affairs
  • Announcement of her introduction at the House of Lords House of Lords minutes of proceedings, 10 October 1999
  • BBC News (19 November 2009): A profile of EU Foreign Minister Cathy Ashton
  • Debrett's People of TodayBio at
  • Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
  • Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
  • Voting record at
  • Record in Parliament at
  • Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
  • Articles authored at Journalisted
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Catherine Ashton collected news and commentary at Al Jazeera English
  • Catherine Ashton collected news and commentary at Bloomberg News
  • Lady Ashton collected news and commentary at The Guardian
  • Catherine Ashton collected news and commentary at The Jerusalem Post
  • Catherine Ashton collected news and commentary at The New York Times

External links

  1. ^ Life peerage,; accessed 20 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b Chaffin, Joshua; George Parker (4 October 2008). "EU president backs trade role for Ashton". Financial Times. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  3. ^ Castle, Stephen; Erlanger, Steven (19 November 2009). "Low-Profile Leaders Chosen for Top European Posts". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Ian Traynor (24 November 2013). "Iran nuclear talks: Lady Ashton's Geneva triumph takes centre stage". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  5. ^ EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton EU Commission (official website) Archived 18 January at WebCite
  6. ^ a b c Lady Ashton: Principled, charming ... or just plain lucky – The Guardian, 20 November 2009; accessed 20 March 2015.
  7. ^ a b Van Renterghem, Marion. "La discréte Lady Europe", Le Monde, 10 December 2009; accessed 20 March 2015.
  8. ^ a b PROFILE: Catherine Ashton,, 14 March 2010; accessed 20 March 2015.
  9. ^ Davie, Edward (15 October 2007). "Baroness of the barricades". The House Magazine (archived). Retrieved 22 November 2009. 
  10. ^ a b Dept of Politics & International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London, "Movers and Shakers among the Department's former students"; accessed 19 November 2009 (archived by WebCite at WebCitation)
  11. ^ Development & Alumni Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London, "Alumni in the Media"; accessed 19 November 2009 (archived by WebCite at WebCitation)
  12. ^ "Profile: EU foreign minister Baroness Ashton".  
  13. ^ "Person Page – 12633". 9 May 2006. Retrieved 22 October 2008. 
  14. ^ McSmith, Andy (7 March 2014). "The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home". The Independent (London, UK). Retrieved 8 March 2014. 
  15. ^ The Baroness Ashton of Upholland profile,; accessed 20 March 2015.
  16. ^ Brunsden, Jim (3 October 2008). "New EU Commissioner Named". Retrieved 22 November 2009. 
  17. ^ Minnion, John & Philip Bolsover (eds.) The CND Story, Alison and Busby, 1983; ISBN 978-0-85031-487-8
  18. ^ Profile,; accessed 20 March 2015.
  19. ^ "Profile: EU foreign minister Baroness Ashton". BBC News. 6 December 2010. Archived from the original on 18 January 2010. Retrieved 8 January 2011. 
  20. ^ Profile,; accessed 20 March 2015.
  21. ^ Profile,; accessed 20 March 2015.
  22. ^ "Gay rights advocate Cathy Ashton is new EU foreign affairs chief". 20 November 2009. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  23. ^ "New Cabinet appointments". 28 June 2007. Retrieved 22 October 2008. 
  24. ^ Waterfield, Bruno . Profile: Baroness Ashton, EU's new foreign minister,, 20 November 2009. Archived 18 January at WebCite
  25. ^ Under Article 213 of the Treaty establishing the European Community as amended: Rome Treaty (TEC): PART IV Title I Chapter 1 Section 3: The Commission, Articles 211 to 219
  26. ^ Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, House of Common Debates volume 69 column 493W (12 December 1984) HANSARD
  27. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Lords, Westminster. "Lords Hansard text for 14 October 2008 (pt 13)". Retrieved 8 January 2011. 
  28. ^ """European Parliament Focus briefing "Ashton backs Doha rescue in Q&A with MEPs. 21 October 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  29. ^ "BBC News report on agreement". Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  30. ^ Castle, Stephen (10 October 2008). "Europe and South Korea Sign Trade Pact". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2009. 
  31. ^ "EU Press release". Retrieved 2013-05-09. 
  32. ^ "European Voice Report". Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  33. ^ "Stabroek news report". Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  34. ^ "Belgian PM named as EU president". BBC News. 19 October 2009. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  35. ^ "UK drops Blair, picks Ashton for EU role".  
  36. ^ Catherine Ashton: 'As trade commissioner she had a good reputation': British peer receives cautious welcome as EU foreign minister from international relations experts – The Guardian, Friday 20 November 2009.
  37. ^ page12 The Economist 28 November-4 December 2009
  38. ^ See, for example, "Four Key Principles for a Conservative British Foreign Policy", Web Memo 2911, The Heritage Foundation, 21 May 2010. Accessed on 12/1/13 at:
  39. ^ Nile Gardiner (20 November 2009). "Baroness Ashton as EU Foreign Minister - is this the most ridiculous appointment in the history of the European Union?". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  40. ^ Hannan, Daniel (10 October 2008). "Why I shall be voting against Peter Mandelson's replacement". The Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 22 October 2008. 
  41. ^ "European Parliament approves new EU trade chief".  
  42. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 61092. p. N3. 31 December 2014.
  43. ^ Ashton named GCMG,; accessdate=20 March 2015
  44. ^ Rettman, Andrew (8 July 2010) EU takes 'historic' step on new diplomatic service,; accessed 20 March 2015.
  45. ^ "EU press release" (PDF). Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  46. ^ "Consilium Report" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-05-09. 
  47. ^ "BBC News Report". 24 April 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  48. ^ "UK Independent comments on the agreement.". The Independent (London, UK). 22 April 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  49. ^ "BBC News report on the deal.". Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  50. ^ "New York Times Report on agreement". 24 April 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  51. ^ Patrick Kingsley. "Egypt's deposed president Morsi is safe and well, confirms EU's top diplomat Egyptian army agreed to Mohamed Morsi's meeting with Lady Ashton, but authorities made sure his location was not disclosed", The Guardian, 30 July 2013.
  52. ^ Catherine Ashton's report of her visit to Mr. Morsi: VIDEO; accessed 20 March 2015.
  53. ^ "How Baroness Ashton's gift for consensus opened the door to Mohamed Morsi. She has been criticised for a 'soft power' image, but the EU foreign policy chief was the first diplomat to convince the military in Egypt to allow access to the ex-president for 'frank' talks that left her hopeful for the future of democracy" The Observer, 4 August 2013; accessed 20 March 2015.
  54. ^ Laurence Norman and Jay Solomon (9 November 2013). "Iran Nuclear Talks End Without Deal". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  55. ^ a b Lady Ashton visits Kiev,; accessed 20 March 2015.
  56. ^ Morris, Chris. "EU's Ashton sees "brave" Kosovo deal as Breakthrough",, 24 April 2013; accessed 20 March 2015.
  57. ^
  58. ^
  59. ^ Spiegeleisen, Peter. "Ashton no longer the diplomatic dilettante". Financial Times, 27 November 2013.
  60. ^ "If these are peaceful protests, then Ashton is a ballerina.",; accessed 20 March 2015.
  61. ^ "Ukraine bugged call", 5 March 2014; accessed 20 March 2015.
  62. ^ Waldie, Paul. "Prominent Ukrainian Doctor is no ordinary revolutionary", Globe and Mail, 8 March, 2014; accessed 20 March 2015.
  63. ^ Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on recent events around the Parliament of Ukraine,; accessed 20 March 2015.
  64. ^ "‘Against democratic principles’: EU's Ashton denounces nationalists' pressure on Ukraine parliament".  
  65. ^ “Laws of Attrition: Crackdown on Russia’s Civil Society after Putin’s Return to the Presidency”, Human Rights Watch pdf report, 24 April 2013; accessed 20 March 2015.
  66. ^ "EU's new High Representative Catherine Ashton says that she would help Europe 'punch its weight' politically",, 3 December 2009; accessed 20 March 2015.
  67. ^ Waterfield, Bruno & James Kirkup. "Baroness Ashton questioned over CND and Soviet money",, 25 November 2009; accessed 20 March 2015.
  68. ^ a b c French 'sexism' blamed for attacks on Baroness Ashton By Vanessa Mock in Brussels, The Independent; accessed 20 March 2015.
  69. ^ Charter, David & Graham Keeley Baroness Ashton under fire for missing European defence summit,, 26 February 2010.
  70. ^ "There was even a damaging rumour that she turned off her phone every night at 8pm." Ashton's response: "I've never turned my phone off in four years ... I'm never out of reach, I'm never off duty and I never refuse to take messages unless I'm on a plane. It was a rumour that went around for reasons I don't understand. It's never been true.", 4 July 2013;The ObserverInterview in
  71. ^ "Baroness Ashton bottom of class as she 'fails' first year in office" by Bruno Waterfield, Brussels in The Daily Telegraph ,9 February 2011
  72. ^ Buck, Tobias (2012). "Ashton slammed for Toulouse-Gaza link". Retrieved 20 March 2012. 
  73. ^ Shefler, Gil (2012). "EU's Ashton compares Toulouse shooting to Gaza situation (Paywall)". Retrieved 20 March 2012. 
  74. ^ "Speech by High Representative Catherine Ashton at the high-level conference Engaging youth—Palestine Refugees in the changing Middle East" (PDF). 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2012. 
  75. ^ Waterfield, Bruno (20 March 2012). "Toulouse school shootings: Israel demands Baroness Ashton resign after she compares incident to Gaza". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 March 2012. 
  76. ^ "Netanyahu slams Ashton for ‘unthinkable’ comparison of deaths in Toulouse and Gaza". Times of Israel. 20 March 2012. 
  77. ^ "EU corrects Ashton speech transcript after Israeli anger". YnetNews. Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  78. ^ Waterfield, Bruno (20 September 2012). "Baroness Ashton absent from two thirds of European Commission meetings". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  79. ^ Carroll, Dean. Catherine Ashton for a second term at the EEAS?, Public Service Europe, 6 September 2011; retrieved 20 September 2011
  80. ^ Rettman, Andrew. Ashton throws down the gauntlet over Gaza trip; accessed 20 March 2015.
  81. ^ Schmitz, Gregor Peter and Christoph Schult. "Iran Nuclear Talks: Europe's Unsung Chief Diplomat", Spiegel Online International, 1 October 2013; accessed 20 March 2015.
  82. ^ Oborne, Peter. "We were all wrong about Baroness Ashton. She may save the Iran nuclear talks".,, 27 September 2013; accessed 20 March 2015.
  83. ^ Criticism of Lady Ashton,; accessed 20 March 2015.
  84. ^ EU has a strange way of picking leaders,; accessed 20 March 2015.
  85. ^ [2]
  86. ^ BBC Radio 4, Woman's Hour Power list
  87. ^ "UEL Alumni Newsletter". 
  88. ^ Press report of TASR


See also

  • Baroness Ashton of Upholland was appointed 2015 New Year Honours List, upon her retirement as EU High Representative.
  • On July 1, 2014, she received the Order of the White Double Cross, 2nd class, from Slovakia's President Andrej Kiska for "strengthening and pursuing of common foreign and security policy of the EU".[88]


She was awarded an honorary degree from the University of East London in 2005.[87]

In February 2013, Ashton was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[86]


Honours and awards

  • Miss Catherine Ashton (1956–1988)
  • Ms Catherine Ashton (1988–1999)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Ashton of Upholland (1999–2006)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Ashton of Upholland PC (2006–2015)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Ashton of Upholland GCMG PC (2015–)

Titles and styles

As the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Catherine Ashton still bestrides the international stage four years after Gordon Brown, the man who gave her the job, was expelled from the corridors of power. She was a surprise nominee to everyone including herself, and few would have expected then that her successor as Britain’s commissioner would struggle to match Baroness Ashton in calibre and clout.[85]

Reflecting on her record, in July 2014, Adam Boulton in the UK's Sunday Times concluded:

While Ms. Ashton had some successes, brokering a first accord between Serbia and Kosovo and leading negotiations for an interim nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, critics say she has too often been missing in action closer to home.[84]

In the same month, as discussions took place on the selection of Ashton's successor, Paul Taylor of Reuters wrote in the New York Times, as part of a larger critique of the political nature of appointments to the European Commission:

Don't look, either, to the EU, where the know-nothing former local council officer Lady Ashton, ludicrously in charge of foreign affairs, has poked the Russian bear with a puny stick by attempting to lure Ukraine into the Brussels fold. [83]

In July 2014, The Daily Mail commented on the Ukrainian situation:

Well, let’s admit we were all completely wrong. It is now obvious that Catherine Ashton has been a success. In her unobtrusive but determined way, she can boast real achievement. Last year a peace deal was struck between Serbia and Kosovo. Nobody had thought it possible. It was a massive step towards healing ancient hatreds and building economic prosperity. It was brokered by Baroness Ashton.... I have never met Baroness Ashton but I guess that one of her secrets is that she keeps her head down, does not flaunt her ego, and allows others to take the credit. It takes little imagination to envisage how a male politician from any of the main parties would have exploited the Kosovo peace-deal, or the Morsi visit. She just kept her head down and quietly got on with her job.[82]

One of the critics of Ashton's appointment came to concede her effectiveness in office. In September 2013, Peter Oborne, the chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph, wrote:

But now the 57-year-old baroness is suddenly at the center of world diplomacy. And whenever she is mentioned, she earns praise for her hard-nosed negotiating skills, her stamina and her diplomatic talents. It is said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has much faith in her. "She is discrete and perceptive, but also tenacious. That makes her an ideal negotiator", says Alexander Graf Lamsdorff, the head of Germany's business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) in the European Parliament and a member of its Committee on Foreign Affairs.[81]

The tone of public comment on Ashton's performance in office was subsequently to be influenced especially by her contributions to negotiations over Kosovo and Iran. In October 2013, Der Spiegel wrote of her:

Later phase as EU High Representative

Ashton was said in February 2010 to be angry over what she perceived as the "latent sexism" among some of her European peers that underpinned some of the criticisms aimed at her.[68] She told the press that her work was sometimes hampered by the limited resources provided to her. She is not, for example, provided with her own airplane: something taken for granted by U.S. Secretaries of State.[80]

The Polish Minister for European and Economic Affairs, Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, stated in 2011 that criticism of Ashton was "a lot of hot air" and that "she has an impossible job to do and she is doing it well. At the end of her time in office, people will be more positive about what she has done. She will leave a real legacy."[79]

In counterpoint to earlier criticism of Ashton for not traveling enough, in September 2012 the Daily Telegraph criticised her for not being present in Brussels for enough European Commission meetings, reporting that Ashton had missed 21 out of 32 regular weekly meetings held so far that year. To the paper's complaint that Ashton's absences were "leaving Britain without a voice" at such meetings, European diplomatic officials said that, under EU treaties, commissioners serve as representatives not of individual member countries but of the European interest. Ashton's staff also pointed to her personal involvement in nuclear negotiations with Iran as among the international responsibilities that had kept her away from Commission meetings.[78]

Lady Ashton and Russian President Vladimir Putin, 3 June 2013

In March 2012, Ashton was criticised by Israeli politicians for comparing the shooting of Jewish children in Toulouse with the situation in Gaza.[72][73] Ashton told Palestinian youths at a UNRWA event, “When we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and Sderot and in different parts of the world – we remember young people and children who lose their lives.”[74] After she was quoted in the press as not having mentioned the Israeli city of Sderot, Israeli politicians denounced her for equating the murder of three children and a rabbi in the shooting attack with the situation in Gaza. Her spokesman stated that her remark had been “grossly distorted” and that she had also referenced Israeli victims in Sderot, but this fact had been omitted from the original transcript.[75][76][77]

In February 2011, Ashton received the lowest grade in a survey rating the performance of European Commissioners. The survey, carried out by lobbying and PR company Burson-Marsteller, asked 324 Brussels policy-makers to rate the European Commissioners with a grade of A to E (A being the highest). Ashton scored an E for her performance, the only Commissioner to receive a grade below D.[71]

In February 2010, Ashton was criticised within the EU community for not visiting Haiti in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[68] A number of defense ministers reportedly also complained that she had not attended a European Defence Summit in Majorca.[69] More broadly, senior officials within her team were said to complain that she spoke only in "generalities".[68] A rumor that she switched off her phone after 8 pm every day was greeted by Ashton with ridicule.[70]

Ashton was questioned by Members of the European Parliament in 2009 about her role as national treasurer in the British [66] Her spokesman said: "She never visited the Soviet Union, she had no contacts with the Soviet Union and she never accepted money from Soviet sources ... She has never been a member of the Communist Party".[67]

Early phase as EU High Representative

Ashton (far right) with the rest of the Quartet on the Middle East (2010)


[65] President Putin signed the new treason law on 12 November 2012. Ashton expressed concern at the new law “potentially penalizing contacts with foreign nationals with up to 20 years in prison” and reducing “the burden of proof for charges of treason and espionage.” The


On 28 March 2014 Ashton issued a news release condemning violence by members of the Ukrainian nationalist political party Right Sector, stating, "I strongly condemn the pressure by activists of the Right Sector who have surrounded the building of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Such an intimidation of the parliament is against ... democratic principles and [the] rule of law. I call on the Right Sector and other parties in Ukraine to refrain from the use or threat of violence. They need to hand over any unauthorised arms to the authorities immediately."[63][64]

At the beginning of March a recording of a conversation between Ashton and the Estonian minister Urmas Paet was released. In the call, Paet said he had been told by a woman doctor named Olga that snipers responsible for killing police and civilians in Kiev last month were protest movement provocateurs rather than supporters of then-president Viktor Yanukovych. Ashton responds: "I didn't know … Gosh." "So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition", Paet says. Ashton replies: "I think we do want to investigate. I didn't pick that up, that's interesting. Gosh", she says. The Estonian foreign ministry confirmed the accuracy of the leak but clarified that "Foreign Minister Paet was giving an overview of what he had heard in Kiev and expressed concern over the situation on the ground. We reject the claim that Paet was giving an assessment of the opposition's involvement in the violence."[61] The woman doctor, Dr Olga Bogomolets, said in an interview reported by Paul Waldie of The Globe and Mail that, in her conversation with the Estonian minister, "she did not indicate that protesters used snipers. She simply relayed to the Estonian minister what she saw that day – protesters shot in the head and heart. 'What I saw were people who were killed by snipers and only on [protesters'] side.'” [62]

In December 2013 Ashton visited Kiev. She said she was impressed by the "determination of Ukrainians demonstrating for the European perspective of their country" and observed "with sadness that police used force to remove peaceful people from the center of Kiev... Dialogue with political forces and society and the use of arguments is always better than the argument of force".[55] Subsequently, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin criticized Ashton's categorization of the anti-government protests in Kiev as peaceful in nature, pointing to the death of a number of police officers.[60]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Ashton, Munich, 1 February 2014


After the November 2013 negotiation of an interim agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, the Financial Times wrote that Ashton was "no longer the diplomatic dilettante". A senior French diplomat was quoted as saying, "I tip my hat to her.... She truly played a decisive role". The report continued that, after initially insisting on negotiating only with other foreign ministers, by the latter stages of the negotiations the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif "now... wanted to deal only with Lady Ashton". Said a western diplomat, "That the others agreed to this was significant. For China and Russia to be outside while she was in the room negotiating details was quite remarkable".[59]


In April 2013, after two years of negotiations, the governments of Serbia and Kosovo reached agreement to normalize their relations. Although Serbia did not formally recognize Kosovo as an independent state, it did "in effect - concede that the government in Pristina has legal authority over the whole territory, including Serb-majority areas of northern Kosovo".[56] In return, Kosovo agreed to grant a degree of autonomy to four Serb-majority areas. The agreement, which among other things removed obstacles to Serbia and Kosovo joining the European Union, followed Ashton's mediation of 10 rounds of talks between Serbia's Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. A cross party committee of the U.S. House of Representatives nominated Ashton and her fellow negotiators Dacic and Thaci for the Nobel Peace Prize.[57] A similar nomination came from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament [58]


  • Establishing the European External Action Service (1 December 2010), which merged the external relations departments of the European Commission, and the Council of the European Union, and was to have diplomats seconded from national foreign services. Throughout the first half of 2010 Ashton sought agreement between the Council, the Parliament and the Commission over the shape of the EEAS. Parliament agreed to the plan on 8 July, when MEPs approved the service by 549 votes for and 78 against with 17 abstentions. The Council approved the transfer of departments to the EAS on 20 July. Until the EEAS became operational, Ashton had been supported by a staff of about 30 people.[44]
  • Working with EU Special Representative Alexander Rondos to head Operation Atalanta – an EU military action off the coast of Somalia, which curtailed piracy (May 2012).[45][46]
  • Helping to reach a deal[47] between Serbia and Kosovo that normalised their ties (April 2013).[48][49][50]
  • Successfully negotiating with the Egyptian Army a visit to the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, in their custody.[51] She reported that he was in good health and was well-treated and aware of current affairs. (July 2013.)[52][53]
  • Chairmanship of the P5+1 in their negotiations with Iran on nuclear matters in 2013, which led to the Geneva interim agreement on the Iranian nuclear program (November 2013).[4][54]
  • Her visit to Kiev during Ukraine's Euromaidan protests.[55]

Notable events of her term have included:

Ashton and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, the first round of Comprehensive agreement on Iranian nuclear program, Feb 2014

Notable events of her term as Haut représentant

[43][42] She was appointed

After a confirmation hearing by the Trade Committee of the European Parliament, Ashton was approved by the Parliament on 22 October 2008 by 538 to 40 votes, with 63 abstentions.[41] She took office on 1 December 2009 for a five-year-term.

By contrast, former Home Secretary Charles Clarke said: "I have seen Cathy in action. I have great respect for her. She is excellent at building good relations with people and a good negotiator". Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, a human-rights pressure group, said: "people underestimate Cathy at their peril. She is not a great big bruiser. She is a persuader and a charmer. That is the secret of her success."[6]

Critics predicted she would be out of her depth. Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation, who is on record as opposed to a European Union role in foreign and security policy on principle,[38] wrote in the Daily Telegraph "This may well be the most ridiculous appointment in EU history".[39] Daniel Hannan, a British Conservative MEP, complained that she had "no background in trade issues at a time when the EU is engaged in critical negotiations with Canada, Korea and the WTO".[40] The Guardian quoted an anonymous Whitehall source as commenting "Cathy just got lucky...The appointment of her and Herman Van Rompuy [as European Council president] was a complete disgrace. They are no more than garden gnomes."[6]

Ashton's relative obscurity prior to her appointment prompted comment in the media. The Guardian newspaper reported that her appointment as High Representative had received a "cautious welcome... from international relations experts".[36] The Economist described her as being a virtual unknown with paltry political experience, having no foreign-policy background and never having been elected to anything. The magazine credited her, however, with piloting the Lisbon Treaty through the House of Lords, handling the European Commission's Trade Portfolio without disagreement with her colleagues, and being suited to consensus-building.[37]

On 19 November 2009, Ashton was appointed the EU's first High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security policy. Her appointment was agreed at a summit by 27 European Union leaders in Brussels. Having initially pushed for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to become President of the European Council, Gordon Brown eventually relented on the condition that the post of High Representative be awarded to a Briton.[34][35]

Ashton with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

During her term, Ashton represented the EU in negotiations leading to a long running dispute over beef war with the United States (May 2009.),[29] led the EU delegation in an agreement with South Korea that removed virtually all tariffs between the two economies (October 2009).[30][31][32] and represented the EU in ending a long-running dispute over banana imports, principally involving Latin America and the EU.[33]

On 3 October 2008, Ashton was nominated by the UK to replace Peter Mandelson as the European Commissioner for Trade.[2] Because European Commissioners may not engage in any other occupation during their term of office, whether gainful or not,[25] she used the procedural device previously adopted in 1984 by Lord Cockfield[26] and took a leave of absence from the House of Lords on 14 October 2008,[27] retaining her peerage but not her seat.[28]

European Union

On 28 June 2007, Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed Ashton to HM Cabinet as Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council.[23] As Government Leader in the House of Lords, she was responsible for steering the Lisbon Treaty through the Upper House.[24]

In 2005 she was voted "Minister of the Year" by The House Magazine and "Peer of the Year" by Channel 4. In 2006 she won the "Politician of the Year" award at the annual Stonewall Awards, made to those who had a positive impact on the lives of British LGBT people.[22]

She was created a Labour Life Peer as Baroness Ashton of Upholland in 1999, under Prime Minister Tony Blair. In June 2001 she was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Education and Skills. In 2002 she became Minister responsible for Sure Start in the same department., and in September 2004 she was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for Constitutional Affairs, with responsibilities including the National Archives and the Public Guardianship Office. Ashton was sworn of the Privy Council in 2006, and she became Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the new Ministry of Justice in May 2007.[21]

As of 1983 she worked for the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work.[17] From 1983-89 she was director of Business in the Community, working with business to tackle inequality, and she established the Employers' Forum on Disability, Opportunity Now, and the Windsor Fellowship.[18] For most of the 1990s, she was a freelance policy adviser.[10][19] She chaired the Health Authority in Hertfordshire from 1998 to 2001 and she became a vice-president of the National Council for One-Parent Families.[20]


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