The High Representative is charged with coordinating and carrying out the EU's foreign and security policy – known as the 'Common Foreign and Security Policy' (CFSP) and the 'Common Security and Defence Policy' (CSDP). Furthermore as Vice-President of the Commission (s)he ensures the consistency of the Union's external action.
The European Council, which comprises the heads of state or government of all EU Member States, appoints the High Representative thorough a 'qualified majority' vote – a system whereby countries have a certain number of votes depending on their population size; a certain threshold must be met for agreement. The President of the Commission must be in agreement with the decision.
The High Representative has also the role of Vice-President of the European Commision which is as a body voted on by the European Parliament before taking office.
The High Representative is appointed for a five-year term, which coincides with the five-year mandate of the European Commission.
The High Representative's role is wide-ranging. It involves:
The role of 'High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy' was created by the Treaty of Amsterdam, which entered into force in 1999. A decade later, the Treaty of Lisbon expanded the role, adding significant new responsibilities. Called from that point onwards the 'High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy', the post was also extended to include the role of Vice-President of the Commission.
On the same day that the Treaty of Lisbon took effect – 1 December 2009 – the expanded position of High Representative/Vice-President was officially inaugurated and the first person to hold the position – Catherine Ashton – started her mandate.
2009-2014: High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission
The role was created under the Lisbon Treaty. Ashton was appointed by the European Council – the heads of state were entitled to use qualified majority voting, but the decision was consensual. The appointment was made in agreement with the then President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso.
1999-2009: High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary General of the Council of the European Union.
The role was created under the Treaty of Amsterdam. Solana was appointed by the European Council.