Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

Ashton's absence from defence gathering raises eyebrows

  • Ms Ashton's job profile requires her to be almost ubiquitous (Photo: Council of European Union)

Defence ministers gathering in Palma de Mallorca on Wednesday (24 February) "regretted" the absence of foreign and security policy chief Catherine Ashton, who canceled her participation at the last minute due to agenda issues.

In her opening remarks, Spanish defence minister Carme Chacon said she "regretted the absence" of Ms Ashton, given the "important" subjects that will be discussed at the meeting, AFP reports.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Ms Ashton initially intended to join the two-day informal meeting, where defence ministers were set to look at the new possibilities for military co-operation enabled by EU's Lisbon Treaty.

Her spokesman however on Monday announced she had cancelled her participation in order to represent the EU at the inauguration of the new Ukrainian president on Thursday.

It is the second time this month that Ms Ashton has not attended a defence gathering, after having cancelled at the last minute her keynote speech at an event on civilian-military co-operation organised by the European Defence Agency (EDA) on 9 February in Brussels. She then had to travel to Strasbourg for the inauguration vote of the EU commission.

Unlike her predecessor, Javier Solana, Ms Ashton's post is "double-hatted" – as she is also vice-president of the EU executive, apart from representing member states on foreign and security matters.

Defence officials point to the fact that she also wears a "third hat," which is less known – that of head of the EDA, an inter-governmental body aimed at helping member states to spend jointly and more efficiently on military items, such as helicopters or maritime surveillance.

Ms Ashton's previous experience in international trade and her youthful involvement as a member of a disarmament advocacy group contrast with that of Mr Solana, who was Nato's secretary general before being appointed the first foreign policy chief of the EU.

Mr Solana never skipped any meeting of defence ministers, despite traveling 300,000 kilometers a year, diplomats told AFP.

Spain, which holds the EU's rotating presidency for the first half of the year, had made the relaunch of a European defence strategy one of the "fundamental" objectives of its six-month tenure.

The current Nato secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also attended the Mallorca meeting. His attendance comes after the announced Dutch withdrawal from Afghanistan, where the transatlantic military alliance has its flagship operation.

Airbus deal reached

One concrete outcome of the ministerial meeting so far was that countries behind the Airbus A400M military transport plane clinched a new pact on the €20billion project delayed by almost four years.

"We reached an agreement in principle between the seven nations in the project and EADS," said Ms Chacon, referring to the parent company of A400M manufacturer Airbus. "The Airbus project will be a success for Europe," she claimed, adding that further details would be announced on Thursday.

EADS has been haggling with its seven top customers - Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey - on who should pay for the overruns estimated at €5 billion.

Dutch to pull troops out of Aghanistan following government collapse

Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende said on Sunday that his country's troops are likely to be pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of this year, a move he said may prompt other wavering states - including EU members - to think about doing the same.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

Podcast

Trumpworld In Europe

Pastors and plutocrats are sponsoring an ultra-conservative agenda in Europe. Many of them have links to Donald Trump.

Opinion

How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires

Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, Blackrock, and Vanguard collectively own more than $1.1bn in debt in the three largest soy, and the three largest cattle companies, and own $6bn worth of shares in these companies.

Opinion

Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal

The European parliament debates on Tuesday the fires in the Amazon region. "It goes without saying that, in light of the gravity of the situation, Europe will need to renegotiate the Mercosur agreement", writes MEP Kathleen Van Brempt.

News in Brief

  1. Apple and Ireland appeal €13bn EU tax ruling
  2. UK PM should provide witness statement, court told
  3. Italy's ex-PM Renzi quits ruling Democratic Party
  4. German top lawmaker scolds Bettel over Johnson snub
  5. Greens decide on Tuesday on talks on Five Star joining
  6. Belgian mayors give Juncker a tongue-lashing
  7. Von der Leyen defends 'way of life' slogan
  8. Court hears case on UK's pre-Brexit parliament shutdown

Podcast

Trumpworld In Europe

Pastors and plutocrats are sponsoring an ultra-conservative agenda in Europe. Many of them have links to Donald Trump.

Opinion

Why I'm voting against the von der Leyen commission

The new migration commissioner's job title, "Protecting our European way of life", rings not of pan-European solidarity or federalism - but is incorporated from the playbook of the extreme right.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  2. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing
  3. Trumpworld In Europe
  4. How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires
  5. Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal
  6. EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin
  7. EU divided on how to protect rule of law
  8. Nordic region to become world's most sustainable and integrated

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us