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The EU in the world

Promoting its values and interests globally, the EU is the world’s biggest trader and its biggest provider of aid to developing countries. Under the Treaty of Lisbon, Europe will speak with a clear voice on external relations.

Maintaining freedom, security and prosperity in Europe requires that Europe fulfil its potential as a global player. In a globalised world, challenges such as securing energy, climate change, sustainable development, economic competitiveness and terrorism cannot be tackled by a single country, but need an answer that only the EU as a whole can provide.

The Treaty of Lisbon contains two important institutional innovations with a significant impact on the Union’s external action: the “permanent” President of the European Council appointed for a renewable term of two and a half years, and the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, who shall ensure the consistency of the Union's external action. The Treaty of Lisbon helps the EU work more effectively and consistently around the world. Connecting different strands of EU external policy, such as diplomacy, security, trade, development, humanitarian aid and international negotiations, will give the EU a clearer voice in relations with our partner countries and organisations worldwide.

The impact of EU intervention is also enhanced by a new European External Action Service, drawing on the resources of the EU institutions and the Member States to assist the High Representative.

The Treaty introduces a single legal personality for the Union that enables the EU to conclude international agreements and join international organisations. The EU is therefore able to speak and take action as a single entity.

The Treaty of Lisbon gives a higher profile to the principles under which the European Union acts: democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, and the principles of equality and solidarity. It introduces for the first time a specific legal basis for humanitarian aid and the possibility of creating a European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps.

While defining the role of the EU in the world, the Treaty of Lisbon also deals with a common security and defence policy, recognising this as an integral part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. This includes a “solidarity clause”, calling for the Union and its Member States to act jointly if a Member State is the target of a terrorist attack.

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