The European Union's Lisbon Treaty has come into force with the aim of streamlining EU decision-making.  The first EU president also took office along with the bloc's new foreign policy chief.

The European Union welcomed the Lisbon Treaty with a ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal where the text was first signed.  Getting all 27 EU states to ratify it however, was a long and arduous process that was only completed last month.

The new treaty 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 new EU 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 called 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.