Belgian PM first EU president

BRUSSELS (AFP) - European leaders on Thursday chose Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy to become the first president of the European Union, diplomatic sources said. The 27 heads of state and government meeting in Brussels have taken the decision to name Mr Van Rompuy, one EU diplomatic source said. Van Rompuy is the new president, a Czech diplomatic source echoed. At the same time British EU Commissioner for trade Catherine Ashton was chosen as the EUs new foreign affairs supremo, the sources said. Mrs Ashton has been chosen, one diplomat told AFP. Everything is fixed for the current European Commissioner for trade to take the blocs second new post, after diplomats earlier said Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy had been selected as its first-ever president. Ashton takes over from Spaniard Javier Solana in the foreign policy role, but with beefed-up powers backed by a new and vast diplomatic corps, and budget. She also becomes vice-president of the commission. The leaders hope the two new posts, created by the reforming Lisbon Treaty, will give Europe a stronger voice on the international stage.

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