“Who?” was the general reaction to the selection of the European Union’s first semi-permanent president of the European Council and the high representative for foreign affairs, who took office Tuesday. Although Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, formerly Belgium’s prime minister, and Mrs. Catherine Ashton of Britain, holders of the respective posts, are relative unknowns on the international stage, they have long records of domestic success.

The two are capable of navigating the treacherous straits of European politics, but are unlikely “leaders” of Europe. That may satisfy the European heads of state, but it will not realize the desire that the EU play a more prominent role in global politics — at least not yet.

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