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 Lisbon Treaty (2009) led to major developments in the area of external action, with the creation of the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the establishment of the EU's diplomatic arm, the European External Action Service (EEAS).
The EEAS assists the High Representative in ensuring the consistency and coordination of the Union's external action as well as by preparing policy proposals and implementing them after their approval by the Council. It also assists the President of the European Council and the President as well as the Members of the Commission in their respective functions in the area of external relations and ensures close cooperation with the Member States. The network of EU delegations around the world is part of the EEAS structure.