|Dr. Hanns Schumacher
Europe has a telephone number
but can it answer the calls?
“Lisbon Treaty entered into force on Dec 1, 2009” … “Gordon Brown surrenders British sovereignty” (the Heritage Foundation) … “Lisbon Treaty will undermine democracy and poses a threat to NATO” (US diplomat John Bolton, balanced as usual), … but “A new dawn in Europe” (The Times) and “A new political era for the European Union” …
The pro and con camps remain irreconcilable until a nine-year long frustrating struggle came finally to an end on December 1, 2009: the Treaty of Lisbon, better known as the EU Reform Treaty, entered into force.
Any attempt by ordinary citizens to read its text in order to grasp and understand the fierce confrontations might end in frustration.
As an amending treaty, the Treaty of Lisbon is not intended to be read as an autonomous text. It consists of a number of amendments to the Treaty on the European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community, the latter being renamed, “Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union“.
The Treaty on the European Union would, after being amended by the Treaty of Lisbon, provide a reference to the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, making that document legally binding. The Treaty on the European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights would have equal legal value and combined constitute the European Union's legal basis and operational framework.
A typical amendment in the Treaty of Lisbon text is, for example:
“Article 7 shall be amended as follows:
(a) throughout the Article, the word “assent” shall be replaced by “consent”, the reference to breach “of the values referred to in Article 2” and the words “of this Treaty” shall be replaced by “of the Treaties”.
The commission has published a consolidated text (http://www.consilium.europa.eu/showPage.aspx?id=1296&lang=en) (in each community language) which shows the previous Treaties as revised by the Treaty of Lisbon.
No doubt: this compendium might even pose a challenge to read for professional lawyers, not to speak for ordinary people. But confusing as it may be: it will change the face of the Union over the years to come and will hopefully enable the EU to master the challenges of the 21st century.
• The EU's ability to act will be strengthened by far-reaching institutional reforms. A permanent President of the European Council (now Herman van Rompuy, former Prime Minister of Belgium) will increase the continuity of Union action. The scope of qualified majority voting (QMV) will be extended, a very special characteristical trait of the “supranational” body European Union, which clearly distinguishes the EU from any other international body. . For Council decisions, as a matter of principle, the double-majority voting system, which takes into account both the equal status of Member States and that of the citizens, will apply as of 1 November 2014.
• The EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) will be extended. The new position of “High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy” ( a position to which the British Catherine Ashton has been appointed by the Heads of State and Government. She still requires the approval of the European Parliament) will ensure that foreign-policy action is more coherent. The High Representative will chair the External Relations Council and at the same time, as Vice-President of the Commission, will be responsible for external relations. The holder of this office will be supported by the European External Action Service made up of Commission and Council Secretariat staff and seconded diplomats from the Member States. CFSP decisions will continue to be mainly taken unanimously.
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