ROME (Reuters) - Italy is ready to demand an open vote on whether its foreign minister should be the European Union’s next foreign policy chief if any member states oppose her selection by the usual consensus method, a senior Italian official said on Tuesday.
Poland and the Baltic states are uneasy about Federica Mogherini’s candidacy to replace Catherine Ashton as the 28-nation EU’s top diplomat, concerned that she may be soft on Russia, diplomats said on Monday.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi lobbied EU leaders over the weekend to back Mogherini, 41, for the sensitive post, whose tasks include coordinating the six world powers’ nuclear negotiations with Iran.
EU leaders will hold a summit on Wednesday to nominate a successor to incumbent Ashton under the new European Commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker.
Overcoming opposition by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Juncker won endorsement from the European Parliament by a 422-250 vote on Tuesday to be the next head of the policy-making, executive commission.
“Jean-Claude Juncker was designated president of the commission by majority vote,” said Sandro Gozi, Italy’s undersecretary for EU affairs, in comments to reporters in Brussels that were confirmed by a spokesman.
“Mogherini has the unanimous backing of all the socialist leaders. If there were to be objections, then the High Representative (foreign policy chief) could be designated by majority,” said Gozi, who is Italy’s top official on EU policy.
Poland has pushed its own foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, to succeed Ashton, but he is seen by some west European governments as too confrontational with Russia in the wake of Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine.
Reporting by Steve Scherer and Roberto Landucci, editing by Mark Heinrich