The European Union's constitution has come into force, after years in the making. The first EU president also took office along with the bloc's new foreign policy chief.
The European Union welcomed its new constitution with a ceremony in Lisbon, where the text was first signed. Getting all 27 E.U. states to ratify it however, was a long and arduous process that was only completed last month.
The new constitution lays out a series of fundamental changes within the European Union, including creating the bloc's first permanent president. That job has gone to former Belgian prime minister Herman Van Rompuy. Britain's former EU trade commissioner, Catherine Ashton, is the EU's new foreign policy chief. Both are relatively little known figures in Europe and overseas.
Mr. Van Rompuy does not officially begin his duties until January. Speaking in Denmark on Monday, he limited his remarks to the press.
"I am in an interim period. I make only a short statement. Questions - ask them starting January 1. And I have 2 1/2 years to answer all your questions. But today, I am rather reluctant and I only limit myself to a brief statement," he said.
But Mr. Van Rompuy did call for the world community to reach a strong climate change agreement at a summit in Copenhagen that begins next Monday.
"The European Union has been at the forefront of efforts to fight climate change. It is determined to play a leading, constructive role at the Copenhagen conference and to contribute to reaching a global, ambitious and comprehensive agreement," he added.
The bloc's executive body, the European Commission, will also see new commissioners next year. French diplomat Michel Barnier won the key job of internal markets commissioner, which covers the banking and financial sectors. Germany secured the energy post. Berlin has good relations with Russia, which provides a large share of Europe's natural gas.
arduous: demanding great effort or labor; difficult 艰巨的；费力的；困难的
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