France broke ranks with its European partners yesterday (10 March) by becoming the first country to recognise Libya's opposition and by deciding to "explore the possibility" of carrying out targeted bombings in the civil war-torn country. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton finds herself pushed onto the sidelines as EU leaders flock to Brussels for a crisis summit.
According to the EU Treaties, the bloc's Common Foreign and Security Policy is an area of "shared competence" between member countries and the Union. In an effort to ensure greater coordination and consistency in EU foreign policy, the Treaty of Lisbon created Catherine Ashton's post.
Ashton is in charge of implementing the agreed common positions of the EU. It appears, however, that there is no obstacle preventing one member country from breaking free from positions that have already been agreed, as illustrated by France in the Libya case.
The centre and left of the European Parliament have robustly condemned the outcome of the European Council, complaining that the interest of the bloc as a whole has been sidelined in favour of national interests.
It is common for the groups in the parliament to criticise the results of European summits, but the missives issued the afternoon following the meeting were abnormally trenchant.