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The Lisbon Treaty introduces new notes to a yet unfinished symphony

, by Pauline Gessant, Philippe Adriaenssens

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After one decade of messy back-and-forth between EU member states and watering down the Constitutional Treaty, the Treaty of Lisbon finally enters into force on 1 December 2009. Rather than the end of a process, JEF-Europe considers this event only as another gradual step on the path of integration towards a democratic European Federation.



The Lisbon Treaty introduces a number of important instruments that render the EU more transparent, democratic and efficient but Europe will need skilled and creative musicians to play the federalist melody until the end. In order to make sure politicians don’t play out of tune, JEFers should continue to set the tone!

Now, which are the main changes in the Lisbon Treaty that are of particular importance to us? [1]

  1. We have three new good arguments to take the wind out of the eurosceptics’ sails. Firstly, no member state is obliged to stay in the EU against the will of the people as member states have gained the right to secede from the Union. Secondly, national parliaments have now up to 8 weeks to scrutinise draft law at European level on the grounds of a breach of the principle of subsidiarity. Thirdly, the Council will have to legislate in public, which increases the transparency of the decision-making.
  2. On the institutional front, intergovernmental procedures are slowly but surely making room for federalist-inspired decision-making mechanisms that we can benefit from although there is still room for improvement. Firstly, the use of co-decision has been increased and becomes the ordinary legislative procedure thus strengthening the position of the European Parliament. Federalists will therefore be able to call for reforms more easily in the fields to which co-decision has been extended: agriculture, fisheries, transport, structural funds, the entire budgetary procedure and the whole of justice and interior affairs (the previous third pillar). Secondly, Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) becomes the general rule in the Council (in 2014) and is defined as a double majority of 55% of the member states representing 65% of the population. However, certain sensitive areas still remain subject to unanimity: taxation, social security, citizen’s rights, linguistic policies and the main lines of common foreign, security and defence policies. Federalists should therefore continue to devise strategies to strive for more coordination and harmonisation in these fields!
  3. Enhanced cooperation among nine or more states becomes easier and more purposeful, due to the fact that a core group is enabled to introduce QMV where unanimity will still apply in the Council of 27. We thus no longer have to struggle with the question of a creating a “vanguard Europe” in a new legal system outside of the acquis communautaire running the risk of fragmentation.
  4. Concerning policies, new legal bases have been introduced for intellectual property rights, sport, space, tourism, civil protection, climate change, a common immigration policy and a strengthened common energy policy (regarding security and interconnectivity of supply and solidarity) which we could henceforth focus on in our resolutions. We should also reflect on the construction and mission of the new European External Action Service that will be managed by the double-hatted Vice-President of the Commission & High Representative and funded from the EU budget which ensures significant control by MEPs.
  5. Important to note is also that there is a simplified revision procedure for minor amendments in common internal policies which can be modified by a unanimous decision of the European Council with the approval of national parliaments (with the European Parliament consulted). Furthermore, we should keep in mind that the European Parliament has an enhanced role in the procedure for future Treaty revision by getting the right of initiative and taking part in a Convention which will be the norm for major Treaty changes.
  6. Last but not least, participatory democracy is enhanced through the Citizens’ Initiative. After having collected one million signatures from a significant number of member states, the Commission can be requested to submit a specific proposal to the European Parliament.

This list may not be long enough to satisfy federalists’ desire for more integration. However, thanks to the Citizens’ Initiative, for the first time in the history of the EU, the legislative procedure will no longer only be top-down but Citizens can themselves initiate and shape policy bottom-up when they are longing for more pro-federal reforms. Civil society organisations should thus enthusiastically seize this new opportunity to team up and launch cross-border campaigns demanding more integration in specific policy fields or even the convocation of a new Constitutional Convention!

The new Commission should become the engine of the Union again and draft a flexible Regulation that allows Europeans to benefit from this direct democratic Citizens’ Initiative. Instead of becoming the secretariat of an ever enlarging Council, the Commission should fully use its executive powers with ambition and determination and assert itself as the leading instrument in the European orchestra by playing a score that is at once inspiring and visionary!

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- Lisbon Treaty, source: google images


[1Inspiration has been drawn from: Andrew Duff, “True Guide to the Lisbon Treaty”, http://www.alde.eu/fileadmin/files/Download/True-Guide-NEW.pdf.

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