Take your partners, please…

Take your partners, please…

2/17/10, 9:04 PM CET

Updated 4/23/14, 9:01 PM CET

Catherine Ashton gets to go to the ball.

Those backbiters who complain that Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, does not travel enough have been soundly rebuffed. 

Barely had the meeting of the informal European Council ended last Thursday afternoon than Ashton was off to the airport – in the company of Werner Faymann, Austria’s chancellor.

Faymann, who took the lead for the Party of European Socialists in drawing up a shortlist of candidates for the job of high representative for foreign policy, is a declared Ashton supporter.

Their destination was the Vienna opera ball, the highlight of Austria’s social season. For both of them, it was a double-date. Faymann’s other date was his wife, Martina Ludwig, while Ashton was also the guest of Michael Spindelegger, Austria’s foreign minister, and Faymann’s junior partner in the country’s ‘grand coalition’.

Ashton is used to switching benches – something she does routinely in the European Parliament depending on whether she speaks for the European Commission or the Council of Ministers – so spent the opening of the ball in the chancellor’s lounge and then moved over to that of the foreign minister.