European Union leaders nominated Italy’s top diplomat to become the 28-nation bloc’s new foreign policy chief for the next five years.

EU summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy said Saturday in a Twitter message that leaders chose Federica Mogherini to succeed incumbent Catherine Ashton in November.

The decision came as the crisis at the EU’s eastern border pitting Ukraine against Russia poses one of the biggest foreign policy challenges for the bloc in decades.

Mogherini, a 41-year-old center-left politician, has been Italy’s foreign minister only since February, drawing criticism that she lacks experience.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton smiles during a press conference after two days of closed-door nuclear talks on Iran in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, October 16, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Keystone, Martial Trezzini)

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton smiles during a press conference after two days of closed-door nuclear talks on Iran in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, October 16, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Keystone, Martial Trezzini)

The EU leaders also elected Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to succeed European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in December as EU summit chairman and behind-the-scenes broker of compromises among national leaders.

Mogherini was in Israel in July, just a week into Operation Protective Edge, and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then president Shimon Peres.

Her visit included a trip to rocket-hit Ashdod, after which she said the experience showed her “the strong physical and psychological pressure, on the people.”

“As a mother I understand very well the pressure and the tension there and at the same time the number of civilian victims in Gaza is extremely worrying. I think it’s in the interest of the Israeli and Palestinian people, especially in Gaza, to stop this,” she said at the time.

Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini (C), along with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (R), visits the southern Israeli port city of Ashdod, on July 15, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/David Buumovitch)

Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini (C), along with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (R), visits the southern Israeli port city of Ashdod, on July 15, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/David Buumovitch)

“All that we can do to support a ceasefire will be done, not only Italy but also in coordination with the other European countries and the United States. I hope that these difficult days will come to an end soon,” she went on.

“The region is tense and there is the risk of radicalization in the Arab world and also in Europe, where we know we have to pay attention to the risk of anti-semitism, especially in these days,” she added.

The Netanyahu-led Israeli government’s relationship with the incumbent Ashton was often fraught with tension following her repeated criticisms of Israel and its policies toward the Palestinians throughout her tenure.