Friday 23 March 2018

Irishman to organise Europe's new diplomatic corps

Sarah Collins in Brussels

AN Irishman has scooped one of two top jobs in the European Union's nascent diplomatic corps.

David O'Sullivan will take up the post of chief operating officer in December, reporting to the bloc's foreign affairs supremo Catherine Ashton.

Mr O'Sullivan, a European Commission stalwart since 1979, will be handed the mammoth task of getting the Brussels headquarters of the external action service up and running.

Currently the Commission's director general for trade -- the top official advising EU trade chief Karel DeGucht -- Mr O'Sullivan is being brought in by Ms Ashton as a counterweight to Frenchman Pierre Vimont, who was handed the other top post of executive secretary general.

Mr Vimont's is the more political appointment, giving Paris a strong hand in the running of the foreign service, while Mr O'Sullivan will be expected to fight the EU's corner.

The Irishman -- who speaks five languages -- will earn at least €180,000 a year for the mostly administrative role, comparable to the salary he currently receives as director-general for trade.

He will be responsible for overseeing the budget and operations for the new service, which comprises 136 delegations around the world.

Described by Ms Ashton as "one of the most talented officials of his generation", Mr O'Sullivan has extensive institutional experience -- especially in the fields of employment, foreign affairs and trade -- and is regarded as a safe pair of hands to organise the service.

"I promised to appoint the brightest and best and in Pierre Vimont as the executive secretary general and David O'Sullivan as chief operating officer I have done just that," Ms Ashton said in a statement.

"David has served in the highest capacity in the European Commission, as well as having a diplomatic background. In their respective roles they will help to create a European diplomatic service that the people of Europe can be proud of," she added.

Mr O'Sullivan started his career in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, but joined the European Commission's external relations directorate in 1979.

He has served in the cabinets of two Irish commissioners -- Peter Sutherland and Padraig Flynn -- in the 1980s and 1990s, and he was the EU executive's secretary general for five years.

He was the top official in former commission president Romano Prodi's cabinet before taking up the secretary general post, which is now held by Irishwoman Catherine Day.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News