So we now have a result. Mr Van Rompuy was in the end not much of a surprise. He will, I am sure, do a competent job and be respected by his fellow heads of government.
Cathy Ashton was, it has to be said, less of a surprise to those of us involved in European politics than to many of the pundits back home. She proved to be an excellent Commissioner. In addition to her obvious intelligence, Cathy is hardworking and possesses a rare ability to bring people together and achieve consensus. If you heard her on the Today programme this morning you will know exactly what I mean. Congratulations Cathy and all the very best in your new role.
Although I made no secret of my support for Tony Blair to be appointed to one of these major posts, I am nevertheless cheered by the outcome. Although it is certainly a stitch up, it is one which makes sense and will use the talents of both individuals to good effect. We have one small member state and one of the larger ones, one man and (at last) one woman, one centre-right and one centre-left We also have a Briton in one of the highest posts. At last, we will be at the heart of Europe in reality, holding a top post and therefore having to fully engage with the EU agenda.
And this agenda, it is clear, is no longer working to bring about further European integration. There is little doubt that although the appointment of a British woman to the High Representative position signals the acceptance that while the EU fully intends to make its presence felt on the world stage, there will be no further significant moves towards integration across the member states. Europe will undoubtedly grow wider with the accession of more Easter European countries such as Croatia, but no deeper for the foreseeable future. Whether or not Turkey will be admitted is, of course, another matter. If Mr Van Rompuy has his way, the answer will be no.
It is a new chapter for all of us, within the EU institutions and the member states. I just hope my optimism will be justified in the longer term.