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Mogherini: Italy's young rising star

© AFP / by Ljubomir Milasin | Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini attends a press briefing after being named new EU foreign policy chief during a European Union summit at the EU Headquarters in Brussels on August 30, 2014Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini attends a press briefing after being named new EU foreign policy chief during a European Union summit at the EU Headquarters in Brussels on August 30, 2014

Italy's Federica Mogherini, named the European Union's new foreign policy chief on Saturday, is a member of what Prime Minister Matteo Renzi calls the up-and-coming "Erasmus generation".

The 41-year-old former foreign minister represents the kind of Europe that Italy is aiming for: open and internet-savvy, closer to young people and based more on common values than the single currency.

Her candidacy initially ran into difficulties as Eastern European countries criticised her for being both too inexperienced and too close to Moscow -- a key issue given the crisis in Ukraine.

But careful lobbying by Renzi has softened the opposition, with Rome backing toughened sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine, even though Russia is one of Italy's key trading partners.

French President Francois Hollande hailed Mogherini as a "good candidate, not just because she's a Social Democrat".

"She's also young but she already has experience."

Mogherini is one of the youngest ministers in a youthful cabinet announced by Renzi when his centre-left Democratic Party took power in February.

Her appointment surprised everyone -- reportedly including President Giorgio Napolitano, who was doubtful about her as a replacement for the far more experienced Emma Bonino.

Following the Democratic Party's crushing victory in May's European Parliament elections with 40.8 percent of the vote, Renzi pushed for Mogherini's nomination.

But her relations with the Renzi have not always been good.

- Critical tweet deleted -

In a 2012 tweet she later deleted, Mogherini said the up-and-coming leftist leader -- then the mayor of Florence and with no national experience -- "needs to study a lot more foreign policy, I fear he would not pass an exam".

With little experience herself, but armed with plenty of self-confidence, Mogherini has ramped up her foreign travel in recent days, including to hot spots such as Russia, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

She has pushed for integration of more Balkan states into the European Union, met with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and held talks in Moscow and Kiev with the Russian and Ukrainian presidents on the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Mogherini was born in Rome in June 1973 and lost her father, a costume and set designer on film sets, when she was 10.

She studied in the Italian capital, where she graduated in political science from La Sapienza university.

She wrote her degree thesis on Islam and politics during an Erasmus exchange programme to Aix-en-Provence in France.

Mogherini got into politics in the early 1990s and took part in campaigns against racism and xenophobia, including the Council of Europe's "All different, all equal" project.

She was vice-president of the European Youth Forum and a member of Ecosy, a European Socialists youth group.

She worked on foreign policy for the Democratic Party, heading up its European and international affairs wing.

Mogherini's blog -- www.blogmog.it -- claims she speaks English and French well, as well as a bit of Spanish.

Like many of Italy's youthful cabinet members she is active on Twitter and Facebook, although her posts are distinctly less outspoken now that she is in government.

She is married with two children. Her blog says she loves travelling and reading, especially detective novels.

by Ljubomir Milasin