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Major Changes to EU Pass Ireland Test

BY Larisa Epatko  October 5, 2009 at 3:50 PM EST

Voters celebrating Ireland's approval of Lisbon Treaty. Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Irish voters Friday overwhelmingly approved the Lisbon Treaty — a set of European Union reforms, including the creation of a new position of president, aimed at elevating the EU’s global profile.

The EU’s 26 other member-nations had already ratified the changes. Ireland, the only country that required a referendum vote, unexpectedly voted “no” last year. This year, its citizens voted 67 percent in favor of the treaty.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen attributed the support to the country’s economic concerns.

“We are a small, open economy, we need those [European] markets — two out of three of our jobs in this country are based in enterprises that have orders in European markets,” he said, the Guardian reported. “Clearly the economic issues were focused on by the people where the other issues that are not central or germane did not dominate this time.”

The changes defined under the treaty include a new position of president to lead summit meetings of the European Council during a two-and-a-half year term, according to the BBC. The office is currently held by countries on a six-month rotating basis.

Another new position under the blueprint is a beefed-up foreign policy chief, who would chair meetings of the foreign ministers and administer the multi-billion euro aid budget.