Joao Vale de Almeida formally became the new European Union ambassador to the United States on Tuesday after handing over his credentials to President Barack Obama in Washington.
Vale de Almeida is the first EU ambassador to the US since the reforming Lisbon Treaty came into force on December 1, 2009. The Lisbon Treaty aims to enhance the EU's capacity to operate more effectively and act more cohesively in matters of foreign affairs and security.
Prior to the Lisbon Treaty, the position of ambassador to the US was held by the rotating EU presidency, which changed hands every six months.
Vale de Almeida's duties will include representing the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy.
"I'm the first new type of ambassador for the European Union anywhere in the world," Vale de Almeida told news agency Agence France-Presse after the credentials ceremony at the White House.
"I'm supposed to have a wider mandate than my predecessors," he said. "Our delegations now cover a wide spectrum of issues well beyond the economic dimension, trade dimension and regulatory dimension, to cover all policies in the union, including foreign policy and security policy."
In his letter to Obama, Vale de Almeida stressed he was enthusiastic about furthering transatlantic ties.
"The emergence of new powers has led to predictions that transatlantic relations will be less important in the future, but this view overlooks the enormous stock we have vested in one another," he said, according to a statement on the website of the EU delegation to the US.
"Our common values and shared goals are strengthened by our deeply interdependent economies and the longstanding ties between our peoples. They are also reflected in the trust and mutual confidence forged through many years of close cooperation between our administrations."
Vale de Almeida, born in Lisbon in 1957, has had a long career working in European institutions. He joined the European Commission in 1982, assuming a position within President Barroso's team in 2004, before which he had served as deputy chief spokesman of the European Commission.
Author: Darren Mara
Editor: Martin Kuebler