The European Union's aspiration to speak in one voice seems odd in a world where the continent is still largely viewed as a multitude of nation-states, with divergent interests and concerns. Against this is the increasingly felt need for an effective counterweight to the predominance of the United States in international diplomacy. The European External Action Service (EEAS), a foreign ministry and diplomatic corps of a new genre, is in the process of being created following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on December 1, 2009. The European Parliament recently approved the final shape of the EEAS and the European Commission offices in more than a hundred countries are being converted into EU embassies. The office of EU Foreign Minister, known as the ‘High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy,' now combines external affairs responsibilities hitherto held conjointly with a EU executive and the incumbent rotating presidency. Internal fissures over the recognition of the independence of Kosovo, the two-state solution on Palestine, and the lifting of a EU embargo on arms sales to China remain. If deeper European divisions were exposed during the U.S.-led illegal war against Iraq (with Labourite Britain in obedient tow), current Franco-German differences over the approach to European economic recovery threaten to undermine a concerted global response. Nevertheless, the attempt to establish a coordinating foreign policy apparatus, with a 7,000-strong diplomatic corps, for a multitude of nation states is ahead of the times and must be wished the best of luck.

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