Wednesday, September 16, 2009

LISBON - WHAT IT CHANGES A simple digest of what the Lisbon Treaty will change


Compared to the current EU structure, the Lisbon Treaty will make the following changes:

1. Making the EU more effective to avoid gridlock with 27 or more countries

The European Council (the meetings of Prime Ministers every three months) will choose a president to chair their meetings for 30 months, replacing the current 6-monthly rotation whereby there was a new president every second meeting.

The EU's High Representative for foreign policy and the Commissioner for External Relations - two posts causing duplication and confusion - will be merged into a single position, able to speak for the Union on those subjects where EU countries agree a common line

More Council decisions will be by Qualified Majority Voting - needing a double majority of at least 55% of countries who must also represent at least 65% of the EU's population. Unanimity will be reserved for subjects that are sensitive for national sovereignty, such as tax, social security, foreign policy and defence, which will continue to require unanimity.

More flexibility: where not all countries want to join in a new policy, arrangements can be made to allow groups of countries to do so and others not. Ireland can opt-in or out of policies concerning frontiers, asylum and policy and judicial cooperation.

2. Improving accountability for a more democratic EU
The adoption of all EU legislation will be subject to the prior scrutiny of national parliaments and the double approval of both national governments (in the EU Council) and directly elected MEPs - a level of scrutiny that exists in no other international structure.

National parliaments will receive all EU proposals in good time to mandate their ministers before Council meetings and will also gain the right to object directly to draft legislation if they feel it goes beyond the EU's remit.

The President of the Commission will be elected by the European Parliament.

A new budget procedure will require the approval of all EU expenditure by both the Council (national governments) and the European Parliament.

Any EU law or any action taken by EU institutions will be struck down if it fails to comply with a Charter of Rights that has been approved by the Member States. The Union will also accede to the European Convention on Human Rights, thereby making the Union subject to the same external review as its member states are.

The exercise of delegated powers by the Commission will be brought under a new system of joint supervision by the European Parliament and the Council, enabling either of them to overturn Commission decisions to which they object.

When acting on legislation, the Council will meet in public.

It will guarantee that the Union will never be a centralised all-powerful 'superstate' by laying down:

o the obligation to "respect the equality of member states before the treaties as well as their national identities inherent in their fundamental structures, political and constitutional";

o the principle of conferred powers (whereby the Union has only those competencies bestowed on it by the member states);

o the principle of subsidiarity and proportionality, limiting EU action to the minimum necessary to achieve the objectives agreed by member states;

o the participation of member states themselves in the decision taking system of the Union;

o that there can be no increase or change to the competences and powers of the Union without the agreement of every member state;


The Treaty suggests a useful set of improvements to the current EU system. It responds to many of the criticisms that have previously been levelled at the EU, making it more efficient and more accountable.

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