The Treaty of Lisbon (also known as the Reform Treaty) is a treaty designed to streamline the workings of the European Union (EU) with amendments to the Treaty on European Union (TEU, Maastricht) and the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC, Rome), the latter being renamed Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in the process. The stated aim of the treaty is “to complete the process started by the Treaty of Amsterdam and by the Treaty of Nice with a view to enhancing the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the Union and to improving the coherence of its action”. Prominent changes introduced with the Treaty of Lisbon include more qualified majority voting in the EU Council, increased involvement of the European Parliament in the legislative process through extended codecision with the EU Council, reduction of the number of Commissioners from 27 to 18, eliminating the pillar system, and the creation of a President of the European Council and a High Representative for Foreign Affairs to present a united position on EU policies (see more below). If ratified, the Treaty of Lisbon would also make the Charter of Fundamental Rights (human rights provisions) legally binding. The negotiations on modifying the EU institutions began in 2001, first resulting in the European Constitution, which failed due to rejection in two referendums. The Treaty of Lisbon was signed on 13 December 2007 in Lisbon (as Portugal held the EU Council’s Presidency at the time), and was planned to have been ratified in all member states by the end of 2008, so it could come into force before the 2009 European elections. However, the rejection of the Treaty on 12 June 2008 by the Irish electorate has created uncertainty in this regard.
For further background, see Wikipedia’s article on the Treaty of Lisbon.
If it contains the same substance, why is the Lisbon Treaty not a constitution?
The constitution attempted to replace all earlier EU treaties and start afresh, whereas the new treaty amends the Treaty on the European Union (Maastricht) and the Treaty Establishing the European Community (Rome).
“Lisbon is the EU Constitution in another guise – it’s just been repackaged as a Treaty because it was soundly rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. Lisbon retains 96% of the EU Constitution, and makes it very clear that EU law will be superior to the Irish Constitution. This means your constitutional rights can be overruled.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel German Chancellor said about the Lisbon Treaty, “The substance of the constitution is preserved. That is a fact.”
“Will national parliaments have a greater say in European affairs? […] Yes. National parliaments are for the first time fully recognised as part of the democratic fabric of the European Union. Special arrangements are made to help national parliaments to become more closely involved in the work of the Union.”
The Lisbon Treaty does not add sweeping new powers to the EU over national governments. Rather, it clarifies existing powers and responsibilities, and streamlines the relations between the EU and national governments so that they can work more effectively.
“We think it should be about deep economic integration and the coordination of policies with clearly identifiable cross-national externalities. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“Parliaments in member states Parliaments in member states are to be given two new mechanisms for monitoring proposed EU laws…These new powers for member state parliaments are minimal oversight powers, nothing more.”
“The new Treaty poses the biggest threat to national sovereignty in Europe since the Second World War.”
The cost of centralization is mainly that uniform policies are imposed on heterogeneous populations. This means that policies developed in EU institutions are imposed on European countries and populations that may completely oppose those policies.
“You can support the EU and be against the Lisbon Treaty. You can support the EU and still want to see democracy and accountability. You can support the EU and still believe that our government should use their position positively and not go along with what suits the larger countries.”
“Taking Europe into the 21st century. The Treaty signed by the Heads of State or Government of the 27 Member States in Lisbon on 13 December 2007 will provide the EU with modern institutions and optimised working methods to tackle both efficiently and effectively today’s challenges in today’s world. In a rapidly changing world, Europeans look to the EU to address issues such as globalisation, climatic and demographic changes, security and energy. The Treaty of Lisbon will reinforce democracy in the EU and its capacity to promote the interests of its citizens on a day-to-day basis.”
“On 13 December 2007, EU leaders signed the Treaty of Lisbon, thus bringing to an end several years of negotiation about institutional issues[…]The Treaty of Lisbon amends the current EU and EC treaties, without replacing them.”
“Some hours later, I made it to page 25. I was hungry, tired, dispirited and suffering a thumping headache. You tend to get migraines when you read sentences like “The use of Union competences is governed by the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality” over and over again, without ever coming to understand what they mean.”
“The constitutional treaty was an easily understandable treaty. This is a simplified treaty which is very complicated.”
“The real casualty was idealism: losing the symbols of our Union and replacing the relative simplicity of the Constitutional Treaty with bureaucratic opaqueness is a pity. As a result, your new Amending Treaty reads like the instructions for building a Japanese pagoda translated into English by the Chinese middle-man.”
“Does the Treaty of Lisbon make the decision-making process more democratic? Yes. The Treaty of Lisbon will increase the number of policy areas where the directly elected European Parliament has to approve EU legislation together with the Council comprised of national Ministers (the “co-decision” procedure). The Treaty of Lisbon strengthens the democratic control of the European Union with a stronger role for both the European Parliament and national parliaments. It will establish a clearer distribution of powers between the Union and the Member States, which will make it easier for the citizens to understand ‘who does what’.”
A stronger voice for citizens: thanks to the Citizens’ Initiative, one million citizens from a number of Member States will have the possibility to call on the Commission to bring forward new policy proposals.
“The Treaty of Lisbon responds to concerns raised by European citizens. For example, the political commitment to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and energy policy is fully reflected in the Treaty. For the first time, the treaties will contain a section on energy which assigns to Union policy in this sector the objectives of ensuring the proper functioning of the energy market, in particular energy supply and the promotion of energy efficiency and energy saving, and the development of new and renewable forms of energy.”
“The notion that the people of Europe should not have a vote on a treaty with huge implications for the future of the continent demonstrates the utter contempt that the Brussels bureaucracy has for the average man or woman on the street. There is no doubt that if the treaty were put to a popular vote, the electorates of several countries would reject it. The whole “European Project” is fundamentally undemocratic, unaccountable, and opaque. If subjected to referenda across the EU, it would almost certainly be consigned to the dustbin of history.”
“It is an open secret that the cosmetic changes made to the constitution were motivated by a desire to avoid referendums in member states. Giuliano Amato, former Italian Prime Minister and Vice-Chair of the Convention which drew up the EU Constitution observed that ‘The good thing about not calling it a Constitution is that no one can ask for a referendum on it.'”
“It puts at risk our automatic right to a referendum on future changes to existing treaties.”
The European Commission is responsible for proposing new legislation, but its commissioners will not be elected by Europeans. This is an unrepresentative form of governance.
“The Lisbon treaty has been defeated by the Irish people. This is a notable victory for democracy not only in Ireland but right across the 27 countries which constitute the present EU. It shows once again the clear divide that exists between the views, hopes and aspirations of the peoples of the EU and the plans of the tiny military, business and bureaucratic elite who dominate the structures and decision-making processes within the EU.”
A more efficient Europe, with simplified working methods and voting rules, streamlined and modern institutions for a EU of 27 members and an improved ability to act in areas of major priority for today’s Union.
Effective and efficient decision-making: qualified majority voting in the Council will be extended to new policy areas to make decision-making faster and more efficient. From 2014 on, the calculation of qualified majority will be based on the double majority of Member States and people, thus representing the dual legitimacy of the Union.A double majority will be achieved when a decision is taken by 55% of the Member States representing at least 65% of the Union’s population.
“What does what: the relationship between the Member States and the European Union will become clearer with the categorisation of competences.”
The EU is operating as well as it can, in the context of it being a union of sovereign nations with legitimate, independent interests. Any further “streamlining” risks stepping beyond these legitimate constraints.
5. The EU doesn’t need this reform
Although the Lisbon Treaty is being sold as a simple reform measure, it actually goes far beyond that. The Irish Government have claimed that the purpose of this Treaty is to streamline the legislative process in the European institutions – but experts say it doesn’t need streamlining! A recent report by Professor Helen Wallace of the London School of Economics has found that legislation has actually progressed more swiftly since 2004 when ten new member states joined the EU. Earlier this year, a report by the Science-Po University in Paris showed that new rules are now being adopted 25% faster than prior to enlargement and that the Nice Treaty voting arrangements generally seem to be working well. The EU is in need of many reforms – but it needs to be made more democratic. It certainly shouldn’t be given a Treaty that allows it to seize more power at the expense of Irish sovereignty and democracy.”
“Does the Treaty weaken Member States’ ability to have an independent foreign policy?
No. The European Union is asked to act when a coherent voice is needed on the international stage. A range of foreign policy issues are best addressed by the Member States of the European Union acting together. The post of High Representative does not create new powers but streamlines EU external action avoiding duplication and confusion. He or she will act in foreign policy matters on the basis of decisions taken unanimously by the EU 27. He or she will complement not replace the foreign policy or diplomatic efforts of Member States.”
“Will Europe’s voice in the world be stronger with the Treaty of Lisbon?
Yes, this should be one of its major achievements. The Treaty of Lisbon sets out common principles and objectives for the Union’s external action: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity.”
“Saying YES to Europe is recognising that some of the most critical challenges facing us are challenges which can only be addressed at a global level. Global warming, global migration and globalisation are just three of these challenges; each of which requires international cooperation to find workable solutions. Now is not the time for isolationism.”
Many European countries have neutral foreign policies, including Switzerland and Ireland. The Lisbon Treaty and further integration would place the in the position of having to go along with central EU foreign policies.
“For both sides of the Atlantic, the Lisbon Treaty is bad news. The treaty poses a massive threat to the future of the Anglo-American Special Relationship as well as the broader transatlantic alliance. It will further entrench Europe’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), both major threats to the future of NATO, and will seriously impair the ability of America’s allies in Europe to stand alongside the United States where and when they choose to do so. […] An America without Britain alongside it would be far more isolated and friendless and significantly less able to project power on the world stage. For Washington, there is no real alternative to the Special Relationship. Its collapse would be damaging to America’s standing as a global power and would significantly weaken her leadership of the war against Islamist terrorism.”
“A Blueprint for a European Superstate Like the rejected constitution, the new Reform Treaty is also a blueprint for a European superstate dreamt up by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. This time around, however, most of Europe doesn’t get to vote, as democracy is too dangerous a concept for the architects of this grand vision of an EU superpower.”
“Improving the life of Europeans: the Treaty of Lisbon improves the EU’s ability to act in several policy areas of major priority for today’s Union and its citizens. This is the case in particular for the policy areas of freedom, security and justice, such as combating terrorism or tackling crime. It also concerns to some extent other areas including energy policy, public health, civil protection, climate change, services of general interest, research, space, territorial cohesion, commercial policy, humanitarian aid, sport, tourism and administrative cooperation.”
“A more stable and streamlined institutional framework: the Treaty of Lisbon creates the function of President of the European Council elected for two and a half years, introduces a direct link between the election of the Commission President and the results of the European elections, provides for new arrangements for the future composition of the European Parliament and for a smaller Commission, and includes clearer rules on enhanced cooperation and financial provisions.”