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Monday, October 18, 1999 Published at 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK

World: Europe

Solana 'to boost EU global power'

Javier Solana (left) greets top EU officials

Former Nato chief, Javier Solana, has taken over as head of European Union foreign policy with a promise to make the EU "a more active and influential global power".

Mr Solana said he aimed to give the EU a strong, united voice in world affairs to match the Union's economic clout.

"The Union in the 21st century will have a common currency. It should also have an effective policy of foreign affairs, security and defence."

Coherent action

His first meeting on taking office on Monday was with the EU's new External Affairs Commissioner, Chris Patten.

He said he was looking forward to working with the former governor of Hong Kong. "There can be no doubts about the total coherence in our action," he added.

Mr Patten brushed aside questions over how they will divide responsibilities. "We've got a very big job to do. I'm looking forward to doing it with Javier Solana,'' he said.

''We'll co-operate right across the board. I'm sure we will co-operate very well together."

Praise for Solana

EU leaders chose the former Nato secretary-general for the new post in June.

[ image: Mr Solana impressed during the Yugoslav conflict]
Mr Solana impressed during the Yugoslav conflict
Mr Solana was praised for the way he held the Nato alliance together through the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, and for successfully steering Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into Nato as the first new members from the old Warsaw Pact.

The leaders hoped his appointment would end years of confusion over who represents the Union internationally.

But the selection shortly afterwards of Mr Patten, as top foreign affairs official on the EU's executive Commission provoked doubts over how their roles will dovetail.

EU Commission President, Romano Prodi, who also attended Monday's meeting, acknowledged the task of forging a common EU foreign and security policy would not be an easy job, but he said they had started well.


Mr Solana, 57, will report directly to EU foreign ministers who meet at least once a month to review international issues.

He is expected to focus on strengthening Europe's defence capability within Nato and empowering the Union to respond quickly to regional crises like those in Bosnia and Kosovo, without having to depend on US assistance.

Mr Patten will handle wider foreign policy issues and the EU's day-to-day diplomatic contacts.

Mr Prodi last month appointed other EU commissioners to handle two of the most difficult current foreign policy portfolios.

Germany's Guenter Verheugen is overseeing the EU's expansion into eastern Europe and Pascal Lamy from France will represent the EU in the new round of world trade negotiations that opens next month.

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