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EU in the World

1. Introduction

EU external relations cover trade, development, security, and neighbourhood policies. The bloc is a web of treaties, connecting Europe to the rest of the world: from individual countries to regional groups to international fora like the Council of Europe, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

The EU is one answer to globalisation, pooling the power and resources of 27 countries, ensuring a united front on global trade, security, and many other portfolios. It is often characterised as a blend of ‘high and low politics’: from the shuttle diplomacy of EU leaders to mission level guidelines, dialogue and monitoring.

The Lisbon Treaty changes the way the EU approaches and manages external relations. It establishes the combined role of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Commission Vice-President – to finally answer the ‘Kissinger question’ of who to call on foreign policy issues.

High Representative Ashton has broad responsibility for all EU external relations, acting as ‘supreme coordinator’ of other portfolios: Trade, Enlargement, Development and Humanitarian Aid.

With a single voice, backed up by a new European External Action Service, the EU’s work is more coherent on the world stage. The new system improves coordination between the Commission and Council and reduce the gap between 'high and low politics'.

There should be no 'big bang', however, says EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. In June 2009, he said that the European External Action Service "has to be well done, member states need to prepare the people, and it probably would be better if this takes some time".

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