The names Hermann van Rompuy and Cathy Asthon have baffled Europeans today. But they may prove to be exactly the type of names Europe needs at its top.

After weeks of horse-trading for candidates for the two future top EU positions, the new President and the new Foreign Minister, the two names, Hermann van Rompuy and Cathy Ashton, have provoked European-wide bafflement. Years to get an important new treaty, intended to allow Europe to speak with one voice and take on its responsibility in the world, all to get two largely unknown names. For many, it seems that Europe is missing its own magic moment.

But van Rompuy and Ashton might actually be good choices. Yes, they are unknown and do not convey strong opinions or visions for Europe. And they are not overly experienced in foreign affairs. However, this has an advantage: they are not foot printed, and are unlikely to stick to ‘old' experiences and ideas. Their newness might be precisely the chance for the EU to build a new foreign service and to shape the world's foreign policy agenda by overcoming resource deficiencies and national divisions. This will certainly not start with strong EU representations in Washington or Moscow. But it might quickly be very strong in regions in which EU policies already have definite value-added to national policies, such as the Balkans or neighbouring countries such as Georgia, Ukraine or Armenia.

Cathy Ashton may not know much about the Middle East or Russia. But she has solid experience as Europe's trade policy chief - an area where Europe is strong, has a real impact and defends its interests. Her job as trade commissioner was helped by strong institutions. To build the necessary foreign policy institutions now is the silent and unspectacular way to nurture a common European foreign policy over time. The choice of Cathy reflects the non-heroic style of European policy that does not want to copy super-powers, but shape globalisation in a post-modern way.

History shows that the world produces and gets the people it needs. There is no doubt that Europe is - from West to East and from North to South - in a re-nationalisation swing. This is not the moment to produce great European figures. It is the moment to do groundwork behind the scenes. Ashton and van Rompuy could be the right people for the posts, even if their appointments may seem a little out of the blue. Only history will prove whether they are really are the right choices for Europe.

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The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This commentary, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.