The EU maintains diplomatic relations with nearly all countries in the world. It has strategic partnerships with key international players, is deeply engaged with emerging powers around the globe, and has signed bilateral Association Agreements with a number of states in its vicinity. Abroad, the Union is represented by a number of EU Delegations, which have a similar function to those of an embassy.
The 2009 Lisbon Treaty did much to strengthen the Union’s activities in the area of external action. First, it created the post of High Representative (HR) of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In 2010, Catherine Ashton became the first person appointed to that position.
And, second, the Treaty established the European External Action Service (EEAS). Operational since 2011, it is essentially the EU’s new diplomatic service, assisting the HR in the conduct of EU foreign policy. Notably, the EEAS runs the network of 141 EU Delegations around the world.
The EEAS works to ensure the consistency and coordination of the Union's external action, preparing policy proposals and implementing them after their approval by the European Council.
Alongside the EEAS, a new Commission service, the service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI), was set up to take over responsibility for operational expenditure.
Today, under the authority of HR Ashton, and working very closely with the EEAS and EU delegations, the FPI is tasked with:
The budget for the wide range of FPI-managed activities amounted to EUR 711 million in 2013.