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Reinfeldt hails first day of EU's Lisbon Treaty

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09:57 CET+01:00
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt welcomed “a new era” for the European Union on Tuesday, the first day the changes laid out in the Lisbon Treaty came into force.

Among other things, the treaty created the post of EU president and a foreign policy supremo for the first time.

"Today EU citizens are heading into a new era. Today is the first day for a more efficient, more modern and more democratic EU, for all citizens," said Reinfeldt, whose country retains the old-style rotating European Union presidency until the end of the year.

The treaty, drawn up to replace the EU's failed constitution, is designed to streamline the workings of an expanding bloc which now encompasses half a billion people and counts one third of the world's total economic production.

Its entry into force, after ratification by all 27 member states, meets their demands "for transparency, democracy and efficiency," Reinfeldt added in a statement.

He was later to attend a celebration of the Lisbon treaty's passage in the Portuguese capital where it was first signed, ending many years of institutional navel-gazing in the EU.

The new EU president, former Belgian PM Herman Van Rompuy will also be there along with Britain's Catherine Ashton who becomes the bloc's foreign policy chief.

Both were chosen by EU leaders at a summit earlier this month, though some observers have criticised the choice of two relatively-low profile candidates to lead Europe into its new era.

The appointment of a more permanent EU president -- who may serve for a maximum two terms of two-and-a-half years, "will provide continuity in the work of the heads of state and government and represent the EU in meetings with countries outside the Union," said Reinfeldt.

Ashton's beefed-up foreign and security policy role will mean Europe "can better prevent conflicts and also improve our peace support operations and make them more effective," he added.

The British peer takes over from Spaniard Javier Solana, the EU's veteran foreign policy high representative, but with a wider mandate and a large new secretariat underneath her.

"We are now making the EU stronger by building better institutions for dealing with foreign policy, both locally in countries around the world and in Brussels. This also gives Europe increased weight," said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt in a separate statement.

However The Swedish EU presidency said it was misleading to call high representative Ashton "the EU's foreign minister," stressing that "the policies pursued towards third countries and in international cooperation will still be the result of an extensive process of coordination between the 27 member states."

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