Kissinger famously quipped that it was difficult for America to deal effectively with Europe without a single phone number to call. Now it will have one.
Washington and London
This past weekend the European Union took a significant step that will have a positive impact on the United States. Despite having rejected the Treaty of Lisbon one year ago, Irish voters approved it – thereby removing the last major roadblock before its full implementation.
The treaty aims to bring EU institutions into the 21st century, streamline its decisionmaking machinery, reinforce accountability, and improve its ability to address domestic and global issues.
It will make the EU a stronger foreign-policy partner of the US when facing common threats, including the Iranian nuclear challenge, climate change, international terrorism, and continued conflict in the Middle East.
All of this should come as a relief to critics in the US who have maintained that the EU has been unfairly shirking its burden of global responsibilities.
Opponents see the Lisbon Treaty as part of a federalist agenda threatening national sovereignty. But the treaty does no such thing.
Currently, EU foreign policy is not as effective as it could be. That's because of competing and overlapping responsibilities between the foreign-policy representative of the Council of Ministers (which represents the interests of the 27 member states of the EU) and the external affairs commissioner of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm. The former has clout as the voice of the member states, but is hampered by a limited budget and staff and has no diplomatic corps. The latter has a significant budget and staff, but does not speak for the member states.
Under the Lisbon Treaty, the two posts are merged. One individual will help bridge the gap by serving as vice president of the European Commission while primarily representing the 27 national leaders and foreign ministers. The individual, likely to be a high profile politician of international stature, will serve as "High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy" – essentially the EU's foreign minister in all but name.