Clinton talks shop with EU's Ashton

Baroness Ashton and Hillary Clinton Mrs Clinton says Lady Ashton is the person she calls to discuss issues involving the EU

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she now knows who to call when she wants to speak to Europe about "life and death issues"... and shopping.

Mrs Clinton told the BBC she was glad that she could "blow off a little steam" with the new EU foreign policy chief, Baroness Ashton.

She said Lady Ashton's appointment had boosted EU-US ties.

Henry Kissinger, a predecessor of Mrs Clinton, is said to have asked: "Who do I call if I want to call Europe?"

It has been widely interpreted as an expression of US frustration at the various messages coming from different EU capitals.

Mrs Clinton and Lady Ashton were interviewed together for the BBC TV programme The Record Europe.

The secretary of state said it was "a pleasure" sometimes to chat with Lady Ashton about "our children, shopping - if you don't tell anybody!" Both she and Lady Ashton laughed at that point.

She also complimented the "extraordinary energy" Lady Ashton had brought to her job.

Mrs Clinton also said she was worried about defence cuts in Europe, as Nato governments sought to rein in their budget deficits.

"Each country has to be able to make its appropriate contributions," she said.

Mrs Clinton attended a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday, where the US urged its allies to invest in a missile defence shield and avoid deep cuts in military budgets. Discussions were dominated by Nato's campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

EU global ambitions

Lady Ashton has the power to shape EU foreign policy and is taking charge of a new diplomatic service with its own budget, the European External Action Service (EEAS).

One of the motivations behind the EU's Lisbon Treaty was a desire for Europe to speak to the world "with one voice".

The treaty enhanced the post of EU High Representative, giving the holder more foreign policy clout to reflect the EU's global economic muscle.

Lady Ashton, from the UK, who has little previous foreign policy experience, was a surprise choice for the post last year.

You can watch the whole interview in a special edition of The Record Europe on BBC World News from 2030 GMT on Friday.

It will also be broadcast at these times: Saturday 16 October - 0530 GMT in Europe only; 1930 GMT Global and on Sunday 17 October - 0530 GMT in Europe only; 1130 GMT Global; 1730 GMT Global.

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