After the resignation of Peter Mandelson, replacement Catherine Ashton hoped for a smooth takeover of the role of Member of the EC in charge of Trade. With trade policy exclusively in EU hands, the Commissioner is a major player on the world scene. So Catherine Ashton faced close questioning on 20 October 2008 before the Trade Committee of the EP on her suitability for the job. Members from the Development and Foreign Affairs Committees also asked questions. After the hearing, Members of the EP decided on whether to recommend the full Parliament approves her appointment in a vote on 22 October.
Catherine Ashton had been until then a Labour Member in the British House of Lords, the Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council in Gordon Brown's first cabinet in June 2007. She is an economist and previously held positions as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for Constitutional Affairs, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice. She brings with her significant European experience, including steering the Lisbon Treaty through the British upper chamber and dealing with EU justice and home affairs issues in her previous positions.
Only the original language version is authentic and it prevails in the event of its differing from the translated versions.
|| Exterior view of the European Parliament in Strasbourg
|| Catherine Ashton, Member of the EC designate in charge of Trade, talking with Members of the EP before the start of the hearing (3 shots)
|| Catherine Ashton (in ENGLISH) saying that she is someone who regards herself as strongly pro-European; her British and European identities have always pulled her in the same direction rather than apart
|| Catherine Ashton (in ENGLISH) saying that she is an experienced negotiator who knows how to build bridges; she led significant changes in the British Health Service and she was appointed to the British House of Lords in 1999; from that position she has been British Minister for both Human Rights and Justice
|| Catherine Ashton (in ENGLISH) saying that plenty of people have noted that she would be the first female British Commissioner and the first female Trade Commissioner, to which she says: it is time; it would not be credible to suggest that she has mastered every detail of European Trade Policy in ten days; but she comes to that position with years of relevant experience in government and business and strong convictions about how trade should work and what it means to live in a global economy
|| Catherine Ashton (in ENGLISH) saying that she was born and grew up in Lancashire, which used to be the heart of the British textile industry; she knows what communities go through when industries rise and fall; whatever the end result of economic change, no matter how great the overall benefits for the societies, they have a responsibility to the people whose lives are changed in the process; that is why Europe's social models matter more that ever in a world of rapid economic change
|| Catherine Ashton (in ENGLISH) saying that she thinks there is a role for trade in helping the EU meet the Millennium Development Goals and tackle climate change; the point is that trade and open markets are a means to an end, never an end in themselves; they should not allow the European trade policy to produce social or environmental results in Europe, or anywhere else, that are counter to the wider European policy goals
|| Catherine Ashton (in ENGLISH) saying that if approved by the EP, her first visit will be to Geneva to assure Pascal Lamy, Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), that the WTO and pursuing a successful Doha Round remain absolutely central to Europe's trade policy
|| Catherine Ashton (in ENGLISH) saying that we are being forced to think about what we do best; that does not mean, for instance, getting out of farming, it means focussing on the specialist and traditional agricultural products which are our strength
|| Catherine Ashton (in ENGLISH) saying that she does not believe that the answers to any of our problems - and that includes the current financial crisis - lie in reversing the current openness of the global economy; she believes they lie in managing economic globalisation better
|| Cutaways (9 shots)