Outside its borders, the European Union is represented by a number of in-country offices – EU delegations – which have a similar role to that of an embassy.
Notable EU activities on the world stage include:
- peacebuilding, through political, economic and practical support – for example in the western Balkans after the Yugoslav wars.
- operating civilian and military missions to build security around the world, under the common security & defence policy
- maintaining friendly relations with countries at the EU's borders, through the European neighbourhood policy
- providing development aid, crisis response and humanitarian aid, and tackling climate change and human rights issues.
The European Commission
The European Commission is one of the main institutions of the European Union. It represents and upholds the interests of the EU as a whole. It drafts proposals for new European laws. It manages the day-to-day business of implementing EU policies and spending EU funds.
The 28 Commissioners, one from each EU country, provide the Commission’s political leadership during their 5-year term. Each Commissioner is assigned responsibility for specific policy areas by the President.
The current President of the European Commission is Jean-Claude Juncker.
The day-to-day running of the Commission is taken care of by the Commission’s staff – administrators, lawyers, economists, translators, interpreters, secretarial staff, etc. organised in departments known as Directorates-General (DGs).
‘Commission’ can be used to refer to the 28 individual Commissioners, the permanent staff or the institution as a whole.
The Commission represents and upholds the interests of the EU as a whole. It oversees and implements EU policies by:
- proposing new laws to Parliament and the Council
- managing the EU's budget and allocating funding
- enforcing EU law (together with the Court of Justice)
- representing the EU internationally, for example, by negotiating agreements between the EU and other countries.
European External Action Service
The European External Action Service (EEAS) is the European Union's diplomatic corps. It supports the EU foreign affairs chief in conducting EU foreign and security policy.
The EEAS manages the EU’s diplomatic relations with other countries outside the bloc. It aims to make the EU's foreign policy more consistent and efficient, thereby increasing Europe's influence in the world.
The service works closely with national diplomatic services in EU member countries, with many personnel from those services seconded to its staff.
The service is led by Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign affairs chief – or High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy.
One major role is to support the EU’s strategic partnerships with key international players and its engagement with emerging powers around the world. The EEAS works closely with the UN and other leading powers such as the United States and Russia.