The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR) is the main co-ordinator and representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) within the European Union (EU). The position is currently held by Catherine Ashton The post has been likened to a foreign minister for the EU.
The post was introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam as the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy; it was then occupied by Javier Solana for ten years until it was expanded by the Lisbon Treaty to sit in the European Commission and chair the council of EU foreign ministers. The post will be backed up by the European External Action Service, a diplomatic corps, once it is established in late 2010.
The High Representative is formally titled the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. However it was formerly titled the High Representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and was, under the European Constitution, to be titled the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs. This latter title, as EU Foreign Minister is still applied by commentators and sections of the media as a publicly-recognisable short hand for the post.
Where foreign policy is agreed between EU member states, the High Representative can speak for the EU in that area, such as negotiating on behalf of the member states. The Representative co-ordinates the work of the European Union Special Representative as well as other appointments such as anti-terrorist co-ordinator.
Beside representing the EU at international fora and co-ordinating the Common Security and Defence Policy, the High Representative is:
According to proposals made in 2009 by the Swedish EU presidency, the High Representative will control the staffing and budget of the EEAS, and propose the size of budget to be allocated. The High Representative is responsible for appointing EEAS staff and for controlling general foreign policy (outside of trade, development and enlargement which has to be made together with the Commission) including security initiatives and intelligence sharing. However, although the High Representative may prepare initiatives, decisions will still have to be taken by the member states in Council. The High Representative would also have to report to Parliament.
While there has been some criticism of the vague division of powers between the EU's top players, Ukrainian ambassador to the EU Andriy Veselovsky praised the framework and clarified it in his own terms: The President of the European Commission speaks as the EU's "government" while the President of the European Council is a "strategist". The High Representative specialises in "bilateral relations" while the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy deals in technical matters such as the free trade agreement with Ukraine. The President of the European Parliament meanwhile articulates the EU's values.
With the growth in role of the High Representative, and their exclusion from the European Council, the national foreign ministers are now uncertain of their role vs the High Representative. At an informal meeting in Finland it was mooted that they could serve as special envoys on the High Representative's behalf. This has been backed by Ashton who said that so long as the EU spoke with one voice, it didn't matter who was speaking.
The High Representative is appointed by the European Council acting by qualified majority. However in order to take up their role in the Commission, in particular as a Vice President, the High Representative has to appear before Parliament for questioning and then be subject to Parliament's vote of approval on the proposed Commission.
The basic monthly salary of the High Representative is fixed at 130% (higher than a vice president but less than the Commission President) of the highest grade of the EU civil service (grade 16, step 3), which works out at €23,006.98. There are other allowances on top of that as all other conditions of employment for the High Representative are aligned to that of the Commission.