Fifty-four of the European Commission's 136 outposts established in countries all across the world from Botswana to Bangkok have this week been converted into embassy-type establishments with authority now to speak on behalf of the whole European Union.
The move comes as a direct consequence of the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty
which includes the creation of a new EU diplomatic corps, European External Action Service
(EEAS), as one of its main provisions.
On 1 January 2010, all 136 of the Commission's outposts around the world were renamed "EU delegations
", but only the 54
of these "EU delegations" have so far been given the fresh powers provisioned in the Treaty.
Eight of these are in Europe (Armenia, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland and Ukraine
) and twelve are in Asia (Afghanistan, Australia, China, East Timor, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Vietnam
The rest are located in Africa (Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the delegation to the African Union in Addis Ababa
These new 'EU Embassies' will take on the role previously carried out by the national embassies of the member state holding the six-month EU presidency, and so will deal with the awarding of Schengen visas and work permits for the EU area. In addition, they will function the other way by promoting the work of the EU, distributing aid and co-ordinating the work of the member states' bilateral missions to the countries in question.
The 54 missions were selected by the EU's new High Representative of Foreign Affairs
, Catherine Ashton, following discussions with EU states. As yet there is no deadline set for the conversion of the rest.