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EU Puts Lisbon “No” Votes Behind It

  • December 30th, 2009
  • Posted by 7thmin

lisbon-treaty-pic.jpg COMMENTARY: The European Union has wasted no time implementing changes sanctioned by its new treaty permitting a restructure and further expansion … and more democracy through enhancing the powers of the European Parliament.

WASTING NO TIME

Once the final votes were in – following a re-committed referendum in Ireland this year and a period of resistance from the conservative Czech president, Vaclav Klaus – the Lisbon treaty was put into effect on 1.12.09.

herman_van_rompuy_portrait.jpgImmediately, in the outcome of lobbying activity ahead of the change, the European Council appointed its first full-time President – the first  “President of Europe”,  Herman Van Rompuy, 62,  a Belgian Christian Democrat politician and former Prime Minister.

It also appointed the first EU “foreign minister”, the High Representative, who is  Catherine Ashton, 52;  the British Labour government’s  Leader of the House of Lords in 2007 and a European Commissioner since 2008.

LONG HAUL

The enactment of the Lisbon  Treaty took ten years of haggling and politicking within each of the 27 EU member countries.

Beginning as a proposal for an EU Constitution, its rejection by voters at referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005 created a field-day for “Eurosceptics”, declaring the “European idea” to be moribund, and caused a scaling-down and re-write of the plan.

It was later legislated successfully in those two countries.

By 2007 all countries had signed, with a few remaining to ratify, including Ireland, which defeated it in a first referendum in June of  that year.

It required concessions to national interest in parts of the accord, as well as the intervening international financial crisis, to impel voters to think again the second time around.

TERMS OF THE TREATY

A Treaty being the highest level of European law, the Lisbon accord sets up changes intended to make the process of Europe-wide decision-making, and law-making, more efficient; to further integrate the member countries, especially in the field of joint foreign policy; and so better enable further expansion of the EU by the addition of new member countries, if that is agreed to.

Parts of the Treaty include:

  • Appointment of the President of the European Council.
  • Appointment of the High Representative.
  • Greater powers for the directly elected European Parliament, with the EU itself declaring it a “huge boost” and “doubling of the legislative power of the parliament”. MEPs will vote more conclusively on a greater range of issues.
  • Use of qualified majority voting on the European Council, reducing the possibility of vetoes by individual countries or small groups of member states.
  • Reducing the size of the executive Commission, which had built up to 27 members, one for each country; with a revised schedule for providing national representation in appointments.
  • Expanding EU authority by putting previously separate categories of responsibility  — social and economic; foreign and security policy; police and judicial cooperation – onto the same legal basis; (with as one consequence, state business between member countries to be treated now as domestic not foreign relations).

Reference

“Lisbon treaty – a fresh start for the EU”. Treaty of Lisbon: Taking Europe into the 21st century, Europa (Home), Institutions of the European Union, Brussels.  http://europa.eu/lisbon_treaty/index_en.htm (30.12.09).

_____   Full Text of the Treaty. http://europa.eu/lisbon_treaty/full_text/index_en.htm (30.12.09).

See also, EUAustralia Online, “Lisbon Treaty”, 2006-9. www.euaustralia.com (30.12.09).


Pictures

Lisbon Treaty document (eu); President of Council Herman Van Rompuy (Wikipedia).

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