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28th May 2022

German and Pole join roll-call of Ashton lieutenants

  • EU flag: Italy, the Nordic countries and Spain have got scooped any top jobs so far (Photo: European Commission)

German EU Council official Helga Schmid and Polish European Parliament staffer Maciej Popowski are to become deputy secretary generals in the European External Action Service (EEAS).

EEAS chief Catherine Ashton made the announcement in an emailed statement to press in Brussels on Friday (29 October), saying: "Their experience and expertise will help us to build the External Action Service that Europe can be proud of."

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Ms Schmid, a 49-year-old career German diplomat who worked alongside the eminent former foreign minister Joschka Fischer in 1998 and who has worked as the main expert on former Soviet counties in the EU Council since 2005 is to become the political affairs lieutenant.

Mr Popowski, 46, a former Polish diplomat who joined the European Commission in 2008 before switching to work as head of cabinet of European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek in 2009 is to look after inter-institutional affairs.

Both jobs are in the €14,700 to €18,000 a month pay scale and involve "extensive travel."

Ms Schmid will be responsible for formulating EU foreign policy alongside Ms Ashton, including on multilateral issues such as G8 and G20 summits. Mr Popowski will help co-ordinate the work of the EEAS crisis-management department and its geographic directorates, as well as EEAS co-operation with the European Commission and its so-called Echo humanitarian aid wing.

Ms Ashton earlier this week named French diplomat Pierre Vimont as EEAS secretary general and Irishman David O'Sullivan as budgets and personnel chief.

Putting together the various bits of the EEAS jigsaw puzzle, she has also chosen to rent the €12 million a year Axa or Triangle building on the Rond Point Schuman in the heart of the EU district in Brussels as her headquarters.

Ms Ashton is expected to name five more senior EEAS managers before the end of the year or in early 2011. She is also to hire an extra 90-or-so senior diplomats for EEAS foreign delegations, such as Belarus and Brazil.

The EEAS will be formally launched at a small ceremony in Brussels on 1 December, but it will take until at least April to pull operations together in the Triangle base.

The recent round of appointments means that most of the EU's big countries - France, Germany, Poland and the UK (Ms Ashton is British) - have a stake in the service. Small EU countries are to be reassured by the Irish nomination. New EU members can look to the Polish post.

Italy, the Nordic countries and Spain are yet to get senior posts, however.

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