Paddy Ashdown touted as Ashton's new EU special envoy for the Balkans - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Paddy Ashdown touted as Ashton's new EU special envoy for the Balkans

Wednesday, 2 June 2010
The British High Representative of Foreign and Security Policy Catherine Ashton is looking for Special Representatives to take their place amongst her European External Action Service (EEAS). One of regions Baroness Ashdown is in need of a SR is Bosnia and the Balkans, and the rumours circulating are that the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown, is her preferred choice.

Lord Ashdown posing on the balcony at the Office of The High Representative (OHR) building in Sarajevo (Photo: Daylife/2005)But the name-touting of Lord Ashdown, who served as the international community’s overseer of Bosnia between 2002 and 2006, has already run into opposition from Germany, which is concerned about British domination of a new EU diplomatic corps and Lord Ashdown’s previous role in the war-torn Bosnia.

The job would involve drawing up and implementing a plan for the EU accession of the other Balkan nations – including Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo. Croatia is already on the path to EU membership and expected to join next year, while Slovenia is already a fully-fledged member.

Lord Ashdown, who has repeatedly stated his desire to get back onto the international stage and his support for a high-profile EU role in the region, has however declined to confirm or deny that is in the running for the job. In yesterday's Guardian he is quoted as commenting: “since I left the Balkans four years ago, there has been constant speculation about a Balkan envoy … Obviously I think it’s a good idea.

It seems he also has many friends in powerful places with much support from the country’s new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, and notably the new foreign Secretary William Hague.

Indeed, he and Lord Ashdown have penned several joint articles for the international press this year about the situation in the Balkans - in particular they warned that the break-up of Bosnia, where the political situation is increasingly divisive, could have disastrous consequences for the region and for the EU.

A spokesman for Lady Ashton responded to the speculation by saying: “we are considering the right and necessary representation in the Balkans region. No decision has been taken regarding any names for the post.

The type of person would need to have huge credibility in the region and also with the United States and Russia,” he said. “Lady Ashton has a lot of respect for Paddy Ashdown.

Lord Ashdown’s experience and expertise in the Balkans and in particular in Bosnia speaks for itself and so his name should be welcomed in filling this important role.

But while it remains at the speculation stage, it is worth reminding that any decision made by the High Representative Baroness Ashdown will require approval from all 27 member states, so it’s not a done deal by any means.

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