EU's Ashton refuses US-style hearings for ambassadors
(BRUSSELS) - European Union chief diplomat Catherine Ashton baulked on Tuesday at demands by the EU parliament to vet her choices for ambassadorships in American-style public hearings.
A hearing scheduled for the future EU envoy to Japan, Austria's Hans-Dietmar Schweisgut, was abruptly scrapped on Tuesday and indefinitely postponed, a parliament source said.
Ashton wants the hearings to be held behind closed doors, but an agreement with the EU parliament does not specify whether they should be public or not.
"These hearings need to take place in camera (in private), that has been accepted by the European parliament," Ashton's spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, told a news briefing.
"These hearings are not secret but in camera because there are issues that are discussed that can be very sensitive issues," she said.
The parliament gained the right to question future ambassadors named as part of the new European External Action Service, a diplomatic corps established under an EU reform treaty aimed at giving Brussels a stronger global voice.
In the United States a president's nominees for ambassadorships must be confirmed by the Senate after a public vetting.
Unlike in the United States, European lawmakers have no veto power, but the EU lawmakers hold powerful cards as they still have to approve the budget.
Last month Ashton named nearly 30 new EU ambassadors, including the coveted Beijing post, which went to Germany's Markus Ederer.