A key player in the European Union, Catherine Ashton caps her turn as a diplomat by orchestrating an impossible seeming peace between Serbia and Kosovo.
When Catherine Ashton was named High Representative for Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy for the European Union, the predominantly male foreign policy community harrumphed its disapproval. She lacked star power, and she had no background in foreign affairs. She'd been the EU's trade commissioner, and before that she was in the Parliament as Baroness Ashton of Upholland, Lancashire, a coal mining community, where she grew up in a working-class family.
No one was more surprised than Ashton herself to get the nod for the newly created post. She hadn't campaigned for it, and emerged only as the consensus choice after considerable jockeying among the 27 EU member nations. That was November 2009; now she is almost four years into her five-year term, and doubts about her leadership in the sensitive post have been put to rest by her performance.
"She's the second Iron Lady," says Marc Ginsberg, former U.S. ambassador to Morocco. "In a European Union that is disjointed and far from united, she along with William Hague, the British foreign secretary, has become the principle voice for foreign policy out of Europe."