Under the compromise text, seen by EurActiv, all EU countries are expected to keep their commissioner. Ireland will receive legal guarantees on taxation policy, social and ethical issues and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CFSP), with regard to Ireland's traditional policy of neutrality among other provisions.
Long shopping list
The draft summit conclusions feature a page entitled 'Statement of the concerns of the Irish people on the Treaty of Lisbon, as set out by the Taoiseach'. These include social protection and protection of workers' rights, public services as an instrument for social and regional cohesion, the responsibility of member countries for education and health services, and the role of national and regional governments in providing non-economic services, including those related to the common commercial policy.
In exchange, Ireland committed to holding a second referendum on the Treaty by the end of the current Commission's term: that is, before the end of 2009. Several sources said October 2009 was the most likely date for a re-run of the referendum.
Diplomats told EurActiv that although formal decisions would be only taken by the Council on Friday (12 December), the basic agreement "was there".
It is now clear that the re-run of the referendum will not take place ahead of the EU elections, as MEPs had been calling for (EurActiv 09/10/08). In a series of telephone exchanges with his EU counterparts, Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen had explained that his country needed time to organise a second referendum, EurActiv learned.
As European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering explained at his summit press conference, finding a solution before the European elections, due in June 2009, would indeed have been more desirable but was widely considered unrealistic.
Therefore, transitional measures have been adopted with respect to the Presidency of the European Council, as well as of the European Parliament. The member state holding the EU presidency when the Lisbon Treaty enters into force (Sweden holds the presidency until the end of 2009) will continue to chair all meetings in the same manner as today's presidencies.
But the next EU presidency holder (Spain from January 2010) will make changes in conformity with the Lisbon Treaty, making room for a permanent President of the European Council and a High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy.
Also, European Parliament will be enlarged from 736 to 754 members in the course of 2010, if indeed the Irish say 'yes' to the reform treaty. The elections will take place under the Treaty of Nice, but soon the Parliament is expected to accommodate the provisions of Lisbon.
Answering questions from the press, Poettering acknowledged that the situation was not ideal, and the legitimacy of MEPs falling between the Nice and Lisbon Treaties should be preserved, as their status should not be different. He admitted that legal experts would struggle with the issue.
Some countries, such as Belgium, were reportedly not particularly enthusiastic about the compromise whereby each member state will keep its commissioner. One of the aims of slimming down the Commission was to boost its independence from member states.
But several countries, especially among the new members, expressed their preference for keeping the current system, considering commissioners to be the highest ranking national insiders in the EU executive. Just before arriving in Brussels, Romanian President Traian Basescu and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said they were in favour of keeping the one-commissioner-per-country system.