|English: Baroness Ashton of Upholland, British politician (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Her political career began in 1999 when she was created a Life Peer
(Baroness Ashton of Upholland) by the Labour Government. Under this government she became the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Education and Skills in 2001 and subsequently in the Department for Constitutional Affairs and Ministry of Justice in 2004. She became a Privy Councillor
(PC) in May 2006.
Catherine Ashton was appointed Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Queen’s Privy Council in Gordon Brown’s first Cabinet in June 2007. As well as Leader of the Lords, she held responsibility in the House of Lords for equalities issues, and she was instrumental in steering the EU’s Treaty of Lisbon
through the UK’s upper chamber. In 2008, she succeeded Peter Mandelson
as Commissioner for Trade
in the European Commission
In 2005 she was voted “Minister of the Year” by The House Magazine
and “Peer of the Year” by Channel 4
. In 2006 she won the “Politician of the Year” award at the annual Stonewall Awards
, awarded to those that have made a positive impact on the lives of British LGBT
On 3 October 2008, she was nominated to replace Peter Mandelson
as the UK’s European Commissioner in Brussels. European Commissioners may not engage in any other occupation during their term of office, whether gainful or not
so, in order to take up her position, she used the procedural device previously used in 1984 by Lord Cockfield
and took a leave of absence from the House of Lords on 14 October 2008,
retaining her peerage but not her seat.
Her appointment as Trade Commissioner was scrutinised by the European Parliament
. She was criticised by Daniel Hannan
, a British Conservative MEP
, saying that she had “no background in trade issues at a time when the EU is engaged in critical negotiations with Canada, Korea and the WTO”.
However, following her public confirmation hearing by the Trade Committee of theEuropean Parliament
, Ashton was approved by the Parliament on 22 October 2008 with 538 to 40 votes, and 63 abstentions.
She has since finished negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement with Korea and initialled it in October 2009.
During her term in office she and her team have given priority to a number of European and global issues. These include:
- Participation in the Quartet negotiations on the Middle East Peace Process
- Leading European negotiations with Iran over its controversial Nuclear programme
- Responding to the Arab Spring with a new European Neighbourhood Policy (May 2011), to provide funding and market access to North Africa
- Supporting democratic forces in Libya by opening an EU office in Benghazi in May 2011 and supporting the National Transitional Council
- Building a European consensus to establish sanctions against the Assad regime in Syria
- Strengthening relations with the EU’s Strategic Partners such as the US, Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa
- In the Balkans, forging renewed talks between Serbs and Kosovars (“Belgrade-Pristina” dialogue)
- Negotiating an upgraded status for the EU at the UN as foreseen under the Lisbon Treaty
- Establishing the European External Action Service (1 December 2010), which merged the external relations departments of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, and will have diplomats seconded from national foreign services.