25th Oct 2016

EU top diplomat to step down in autumn

  • Javier Solana - going after 10 years in the job (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has said he will not seek a new term in office but will step down when the post expires in autumn after 10 years of representing the bloc abroad.

The move by Mr Solana, a former Nato chief and Spanish foreign minister, had been expected but this is the first time he has stated it so clearly in public.

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"I had a 10-year mandate which I have fulfilled," he told Spanish daily newspaper ABC in an interview. "I do not mean to go any further."

His current mandate expires in October but he said there would be "no point in trying" to seek to carry on for a further term.

During his time as High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy he had to fight to make himself heard on the EU's external stage, a crowded place that is also home to the EU commissioner for external relations and the EU presidency of the moment.

In addition, foreign ministers from big member states were often reluctant to let Mr Solana get a look in on major issues.

It took him some time to get himself established as one of the negotiators and speaker for the EU on the Iran nuclear issue, a topic where Britain, France and Germany took the lead.

He is generally well-regarded for having been able to give some weight to the post despite not having much power and without having stepped on member states' toes, who fiercely guard their national sovereignty in this area.

Mr Solana will be stepping down just as the post is set to gain power, if the EU's new Lisbon treaty comes into force.

The new EU foreign minister function, formally called the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, will see his successor become vice-president of the European Commission, chair of all the EU foreign minister councils and head of a new EU diplomatic service.

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