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EU leaders approve new treaty

  • Story Highlights
  • The treaty changes voting procedures, increases role of European parliament
  • The treaty would succeed proposed EU constitution that was scrapped
  • Ireland is expected to hold a vote on the treaty early next year
  • Polls find most people want a referendum on the treaty
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(CNN) -- A new treaty that will reshape the European Union's institutions and, it is hoped, streamline decision-making is a "European victory", according to the current president of the EU.

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British PM Gordon Brown chats with Austria's Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer Thursday in Lisbon.

Portuguese Prime Minister Josi Socrates, who hosted the EU summit in Lisbon, Portugal, said the agreement on the treaty between the 27 member states early Friday marked a new era for Europe.

"With this new treaty, Europe has overcome an impasse that lasted for several years," Socrates told reporters.

The treaty was approved on the first day of a two-day summit. It is the would-be successor to a proposed EU constitution scrapped in 2005 after it was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands.

European leaders reached an agreement on the treaty - which is likely to be known as the Lisbon Treaty - at around 1 a.m. after last-minute wrangling by Italy and Poland.

A number of concessions were made to secure their support, with Italy gaining an extra seat in the future European parliament and Poland securing a guarantee that small groups of countries could delay EU decisions that they objected to.

European leaders will now return home to convince their electorates to back the treaty, which still needs to be approved in national parliaments. Due to the requirements of its constitution, Ireland is the only country planning to hold a vote on the treaty -- expected early next year.

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According to a poll conducted by the British newspaper The Financial Times, a majority of voters in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain want the chance to vote on whether to endorse the treaty, which will be formally signed in December.

The president of the European Commission Josi Manuel Barroso said that after resolving its institutional crisis, the EU must concentrate on playing a bigger role in world affairs.

Barroso, who joined the Socrates for the press conference on Friday, said: "We have to be open to the world. We must protect ourselves without being protectionist. We should not close our doors, rather we should encourage others to open theirs."

He said the EU must continue to show leadership on climate change. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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