Elections

E.U. Elects First President

The European Union has elected its first president, and rather than choose a high-profile international figure (Tony Blair proved an unpopular candidate and dropped out), the group of leaders chose low-key Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, an economist. The E.U. also elected a trade commissioner, Catherine Ashton, who was backed by Gordon Brown after he withdrew support from Blair. Ashton is known to have limited political experience, and the job descriptions of both new positions are still unclear—a departure from the original ideas in the Lisbon Treaty. The two candidates received support from centrist politicians including Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, and a columnist for French newspaper Liberation lamented that in such an environment “all strong personalities will be eliminated by a crossfire of votes.”