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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Europe's Leaders Reach Consensus EU Treaty

BRUSSELS -- After 30 hours of tough negotiations, European Union leaders overcame deep divisions on policy Saturday and agreed to an outline for a new EU treaty designed to streamline the bloc and prepare it for a bolder role on the world stage.

The treaty, to be drafted in coming months and ratified in 2009, is to replace the abortive constitution that Dutch and French voters rejected two years ago as the bloc coped with expansion to 12 new members.

"This deal gives us a chance to move on," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said as wrapped up his last EU summit before stepping down next week.

Britain put up one of the most determined battles in summit negotiations that were fractious and at times bitter.

An equally determined Poland, in a bid to secure more influence in the bloc, broke EU taboos by recalling Germany's wartime record, and threatened to veto the plan; Britain wrestled with its fears of a creeping European superstate; and France sought to limit a perceived erosion of workers rights.

The final deal was a compromise of complex voting rules and legal language, plus scattered opt-outs from EU rules. The EU, with 27 member nations, now represents 490 million people. Luxembourg's veteran Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker called it "a very complex simplified treaty."

Among the key provisions of the new deal: More decisions can be taken by majority rather than unanimous decisions, removing the threat of national vetoes holding back EU policy. Also, the European Parliament and national assemblies get more say over decision-making, strengthening the EU's democratic credentials. Membership of the EU's executive arm -- the European Commission -- will be trimmed from an unwieldy 27 to 17.

Additionally, a new post of EU president will be created to replace the system of rotating national leaders into the job. And the role of EU foreign policy chief will be strengthened, to give Europe a bigger voice in the world.

The new treaty is meant to allow the bloc to react more quickly to global crises, although it still requires agreement among the members on what needs to be done.

Charles Grant of London-based think tank Center for European Reform said that under the new treaty neither the new EU president nor the foreign policy chief -- to be known as a High Representative -- will have any executive power.

"Their authority would depend on their powers of persuasion and the force of their personality," he said.

"The creation of these two posts would enhance the EU's global influence, when it has a common policy," he said. "But it would not shift power to the Union, since any EU foreign policy would still require the unanimous consent of the foreign ministers."