Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini was first tipped for the post last month and is viewed as the favourite, but this week a number of EU countries banded together to block the Italian from taking the top job.
Coming to her defence Sandro Gozi, Italy’s European affairs chief, said MEPs should vote on the appointment as they did today for the European Commission president.
“Juncker was appointed by a majority. No-one has raised objections with us; if there are [objections] then the high representative can also be appointed by majority,” he was quoted in Il Sole 24 Ore as saying.
Jean-Claude Juncker was appointed Commission president on Tuesday, winning 442 out of 729 votes in a secret ballot. Gozi said the new president won the support of the European Parliament’s as part of an agreement, in which the socialist bloc would get to choose the EU’s foreign affairs representative.
“Federica Mogherini has the unanimous support of all the socialist leaders,” he said.
But her candidacy was today openly rejected by the prime minister of Lithuania, Algirdas Butkevicius, who said his view was shared by the country’s president.
Up to 11 European countries, including Estonia and Latvia, are said to oppose Mogherini taking over from the current representative Catherine Ashton.
The main objections to her appointment include Italy’s apparent soft approach to Russia and Mogherini’s inexperience, having been foreign minister only since February.
Ashton was however relatively unknown until her appointment in 2009, serving in the British government but having a low profile internationally.