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A cut to the chase: Why the Lisbon Treaty should be fully ratified

, by Stephanie Calleja

“Using the metaphor of expectant parents, he said that while they had hoped for a girl (une constitution/ una costituzione), they had produced a boy (un traité/un trattato). If ‘constitutional nature’ is the analogue to ‘gender’ in Amato’s metaphor, we might similarly suggest that there is little fixed or essential about this category either. While the Lisbon Treaty has undergone a certain amount of ‘reassignment’, with the removal of key provisions from, and the addition of crucial protocols to, the corpus of the original TECE, the answer to the question whether the final product can be viewed in constitutional terms or not is likely to depend on the eye of the beholder, or more precisely, on the interpretative stance of the observer.” – From Gráinne de Búrca’s article entitled “The EU on the Road from the Constitutional Treaty to the Lisbon Treaty”



The times, they are changing. The EC Treaty back in 1951 essentially served as a framework treaty. It laid out some far-reaching ideologies that were to be fulfilled throughout the years. The history of the EU has proved to be prosperous in what is progression of beliefs and the collective efforts from all member countries were and still are very lucrative. The Lisbon Treaty can be seen both as a build-up to the TEU and a diversified steer towards a more preponderant Europe. Instead of acting as a palimpsest, the Lisbon Treaty rectifies the already reputable European Law.

First and foremost, the Reform Treaty will make the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights legally-binding. This renewed proclamation originally made in 2001 redefines all freedoms, in other words, it strengthens egalitarianism and consequently commits the EU to value its citizens. Women’s rights, especially those regarding equal pay, maternity leave and non-discrimination will be safeguarded. The Treaty will furthermore mainstream gender and resume its struggles towards the end of sexual exploitation. Making the EU a more accountable community would help detecting issues of global importance such as environmental change.

Rather than by unanimity, an increased number of policies will be decided upon by Qualified Majority Voting. The council will employ this more efficacious method in nearly every instance except when settling the scores on issues as substantial as military and defense, which require a complete agreement considering the multifarious consequences they can have over longer periods of time. As it currently stands, wherever the system of Qualified Majority Voting applies, approximately 72% of votes are needed for a law to be passed. As from 2014, however, a 55% of votes will be acceptable; as long as this vote will reflect at least 65% of the EU population, or if less than four countries will go up against it, the law shall be approved. This clearly implies that legislation will be easier to pass, and that the bigger countries will potentially have more impact.

The executive branch of the EU, the EU Commission, who is responsible of both proposing and sustaining EU law, will reduce in size. Although at first glance, this may seem like a drawback, a lesser amount of commissioners again means that it will be easier to propose legislation. The number of commissioners will be 18, and membership will rotate every five years. The European Parliament, which shares lawmaking power with the Council of Ministers, will not only be granted co-decision power over practically all areas, but the number of MEP’s will go down from 785 to 781 representatives. New areas of competence, more accurately, joint competence in some areas and supporting competence in others, will enable the EU to work out more swiftly on issues such as education, tourism and sport, all three of which have been inadequately discussed until now. A new role of EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy will substitute the roles of both EU foreign policy chief and external affairs commissioner. The Lisbon Treaty will no longer accredit the symbols of the EU, but that doesn’t mean that they will cease to exist.

Even though the schedule might prolong itself due to the fact that not all EU members have yet ratified the Treaty of Lisbon, Germany’s process of ratification is well underway. The Irish Government has recently launched a white paper in order to make the Treaty easier to apprehend and evaluate. October 2nd is the chosen date in which yet another Irish referendum will be held for citizens to decide on whether they’re in favour or against the treaty.

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Image: Treaty of Lisbon, source: wikipedia

Your comments

  • On 28 September 2009 at 11:57, by Miguel Sousa Ferro Replying to: A cut to the chase: Why the Lisbon Treaty should be fully ratified

    When analysing the Lisbon Treaty, it’s important to keep track of the changes that have been introduced after its adoption. These changes were put in place especially to tackle the ratification difficulties, and so can constitute an important selling point for the Treaty. The most significant of these changes derives from the European Council’s decision (allowed by unanimity under the Treaty) to keep the Commission as it currently exists. In other words, when the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, there will still be one Commissioner per Member State (this was specifically aimed at pleasing Irish voters). The number of Commissioners will only be changed if the Treaty is revised again, or if the European Council votes by unanimity in that sense. This is bad for the Commission’s efficiency and overall strength, but it seemed necessary from a democratic perspective at this stage.

  • On 29 September 2009 at 11:07, by Jonathan Burns Replying to: A cut to the chase: Why the Lisbon Treaty should be fully ratified

    The German President recently put his signature to Lisbon. Just waiting on the Polish and Czech presidents and the Irish referendum now.

    Lisbon should be ratified simply because it does not change the relationship between citizen-Member State-EU, in my opinion, but rather it just aims to make the EU a more effective body. That cannot be a bad thing. The chief criticism of the EU - the one that is most difficult for pro-Europeans to parry - is that it is unwieldly, often ineffective, and does not live up to its professed ambitions. See http://www.right2bet.net for example - a campaign that is pulling no punches in pointing out where the EU is simply failing to ensure freedom of choice for EU citizens.

    We desperately need an effective EU that can act so that criticism like this will never again be levelled at its institutions...

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