The European External Action Service, the new EU diplomatic structure, has been officially inaugurated.
Under the foreign policy chief, the High Representative Catherine Ashton, appointed by the bloc’s leaders, the EEAS will serve as a foreign ministry and diplomatic corps for the 27-member EU.
Its overall task is to implement the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, including its response to crises. The EEAS is independent from other EU institutions, merging the external relation departments of the Council and the European Commission.
The full staff will be some 1,600 people, working in 137 embassies. The independent budget for all this is still not settled, though. The parliament and member states have not yet agreed what the EU budget will be for next year. Freezing EU funds at current levels would limit the new EEAS.