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The Treaty of Lisbon
The Lisbon Treaty’s entry into force on 1 December 2009 marked the end of a prolonged period during which the Union examined issues of institutional consolidation and functional efficiency. It is the result of painstaking negotiations amidst a period of introversion until its adoption by all 27 EU member states.
Its main aim - as set out in the Treaty’s preamble – is to enhance the Union’s efficiency and democratic legitimacy and improve the coherence of its actions, providing the Union with a single legal personality in order to replace the Community as a legal entity. The European Council has gained recognition as the EU’s institution, and also the European Parliament comes out particularly strengthened. Furthermore, certain changes have been introduced in the way the Council of Ministers is chaired and in its composition, with the General Affairs Council being separated from the Foreign Affairs Council. Of particular significance is also the institutionalization of the Eurogroup, that is, the informal meetings between Finance Ministers of Eurozone's members.
It also ushers in a sea change with regard to the Union's external presence and action vis-à-vis the international community, third countries and its international political and economic relations in general. The new permanent President of the Council and the EU High Representative for the CFSP – who are both accountable before the European Parliament – are the Union’s answer to the firm demand for a permanent European collocutor. Furthermore, by setting up the External Action Service which will become the European diplomatic service, the Union is in a position to play a leading role in the international system, from external economic relations to the area of defense and security.
At the informal meeting of the European Council on 19/11/2009, the former Belgian Prime Minister, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, was elected President of the European Council, and former British MEP, Lady Catherine Ashton, was elected the Union’s High Representative for the CFSP.