Baroness Ashton expected to quit EU job within months
Telegraph UK (Link) - Bruno Waterfield (April 30, 2010)
Less than six months into the job as EU High Representative for foreign affairs, The Daily Telegraph has learned that colleagues believe Lady Ashton, the best paid female politician in the world, is �on the verge of resignation.�
Senior officials predict that the Labour peer, 54, could step down later this year after being politically damaged by accusations that she is too inexperienced and weak to be EU foreign minister, a post created by the Lisbon Treaty.
�Every day is an uphill struggle,� said a European Commission official. �No one predicts she can stay five years, not even she.�
Lady Ashton has come under fire from powerful countries led by France, for allowing the Commission to seize too much control of a new EU diplomatic service that she is building from scratch.
Her lack of political authority has been blamed for a failure to stamp out bureaucratic Brussels in-fighting over who will control the new European External Action Service, with 7,000 diplomats manning over 130 embassies around the world.
Bitter turf wars over budgets and senior posts mean the diplomatic corps will be delayed, a situation that has angered governments and embarrassed the EU on the global stage.
Following one recent row, she allegedly threatened to walk out of her job and had to be talked out of resigning on the spot by diplomats and officials.
�She has been heard voicing her frustration and has expressed her desire to walk away,� said an EU source. �She obviously finds some of the personal criticism to be almost unbearable.�
Close aides to Lady Ashton, who is currently in China, have dismissed the �rumours� and emphasised that she intends to be a �stayer.�
�She was appointed by EU leaders for a full five year mandate and she has been confirmed by the European Parliament. She is successfully doing her job and carrying out the work,� said her spokesman.
In the last three months, Lady Ashton has also been heavily criticised for not visiting Haiti in the wake of the earthquake in January. Officials have complained that she has lacked suitable leadership abilities for as post that comes with an annual salary and perks package worth �328,000 a year.
Diplomats, already unhappy with her inability to speak French or German, have accused her of speaking in �generalities� during ministerial meetings and briefings.
Personally stung by the negative briefings, Lady Ashton has further alienated ministers and officials by suggesting criticism is result of �latent sexism� within a male dominated EU.
She was wounded by being the fourth British choice to take the post after David Miliband, Lord Mandelson and Geoff Hoon either declined the job or were vetoed by other countries.
A leader of the House of Lords, Lady Ashton succeeded Lord Mandelson as Trade Commissioner when he returned to British politics in 2008 but kept a far lower profile than her media friendly predecessor.
Her appointment as EU foreign minister at a summit last November was greeted with surprise.
Some officials have suggested that Mr Miliband, the current foreign secretary, could be her replacement if he fails in his ambition to become Labour�s next leader after the general election next week.