Brussels After years of effort the European Union named its first full-time president and powerful foreign policy chief on Thursday — but handed the jobs to two little-known compromise figures instead of global heavy hitters.
The choice by national leaders behind closed doors broke a stalemate in choppy, often pained negotiations intended to give Europe a voice on the world stage commensurate with its economic heft. That hope was apparently dashed by a desire for consensus instead of a potentially divisive figure who could have overshadowed leaders of nations such as France and Germany.
Belgian Premier Herman Van Rompuy — a soft-spoken technocrat who shuns the public eye and has written haikus about European unity — will be the EU’s new president. EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton of Britain, recognized by few in her home country and never elected to public office, was named foreign policy chief.
Van Rompuy and Ashton are meant to give the EU a bigger role on issues such as climate change, terrorism and trade amid the rise of China, Brazil and India.