Ratifying the Treaty of Lisbon

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The ratification process for the Treaty of Lisbon began in December 2007 and is set to continue throughout 2008 despite Ireland’s rejection of the Treaty by referendum.

Background

The framework of the new 'Reform Treaty' was agreed upon by EU leaders at a summit in June 2007, and a subsequent intergovernmental conference (IGC) reached agreement upon its precise text last October (EURACTIV 19/10/08). 

The 'Treaty of Lisbon' was officially signed by EU heads of state and government at a summit in the Portuguese capital on 13 December 2007 (EURACTIV 14/12/07). 

The treaty aims to streamline EU decision-making by introducing voting reforms in the Council, reducing the size of the Commission and strengthening the role of national parliaments. It also creates the new posts of Council President and High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy.

Issues

The Treaty of Lisbon must be ratified by all 27 member states in order to come into force. 

The treaty was originally scheduled to come into force on 1 January 2009, ahead of European Parliament elections in June that year. 

However, the Irish 'no' vote has thrown a spanner in the works. Whatever solutions are provided for the current impasse, it is certain that ratification will not now happen on 1 January.

Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty:

Member State  Ratification Procedure  Date  Majority required  EURACTIV coverage 
Austria Parliament Approved 24 April 2008; completed 13 May 2008 2/3 majority in both chambers EURACTIV 10/04/08EURACTIV 25/04/08 
Belgium Parliament Completed 10 July 2008 Simple majority in 7 regional & federal chambers
Bulgaria Parliament Approved 21 March 2008; completed 28 April 2008  Simple majority EURACTIV 25/03/08 
Cyprus Parliament Completed 3 July 2008 Simple majority (presidential veto) EURACTIV 09/07/08
Czech Republic  Parliament Delayed pending court ruling due in Sept. or Oct. Already approved by lower House Simple majority (if 'no transfer of powers'), or else 3/5 in Parliament & Senate EURACTIV 16/06/08EURACTIV 20/06/08EURACTIV 30/06/08EURACTIV 1/09/08EURACTIV 26/11/08
Denmark Parliament Approved 24 April 2008; completed 29 May 2008 Simple majority (provided over 50% of MPs present) 

EURACTIV 25/04/08

EURACTIV 12/12/08

 

Estonia Parliament Completed 11 June 2008 Simple majority EURACTIV 12/06/08 
Finland Parliament Submitted to Parliament March 2008. Completed 11 June 2008 2/3 majority

EURACTIV 12/06/08 

EURACTIV 19/08/08

 

France Parliament Approved 6-7 Feb. 2008; completed 14 Feb. 2008 Constitutional amendment, simple majority in both chambers and 3/5 in Congress EURACTIV 05/02/08EURACTIV 08/02/08EURACTIV 11/02/08 
Germany Parliament Approved by lower House 24 April, and by higher House 23 May 2008. Ratification complete  Simple majority in both chambers and presidential approval. EURACTIV 25/04/08EURACTIV 23/05/08 
Greece Parliament Completed 11-12 June 2008 Simple majority EURACTIV 12/06/08 
Hungary Parliament Approved 17 Dec. 2007; completed 6 Feb. 2008 2/3 majority EURACTIV 18/12/07 
Ireland Referendum Rejected by popular referendum on 12 June Simple majority in Parliament & over 50% of vote in popular referendum  EURACTIV 03/03/08EURACTIV 03/04/08EURACTIV 16/04/08EURACTIV 18/04/08EURACTIV 28/05/08EURACTIV 04/06/08EURACTIV 06/06/08EURACTIV 10/06/08 (no. 1), EURACTIV 10/06/08 (no. 2), EURACTIV 12/06/08EURACTIV 13/06/08 (no. 1), EURACTIV 13/06/08 (no. 2), EURACTIV 16/06/08EURACTIV 20/06/08EURACTIV 02/07/08 
Italy Parliament Completed 8 Aug. 2008 Simple majority in both chambers
Latvia Parliament Approved 8 May 2008; process completed 16 June 2008 Simple majority in two readings EURACTIV 09/05/08 
Lithuania Parliament Completed 8 May 2008 Simple majority EURACTIV 09/05/08 
Luxembourg Parliament Approved by Parliament 20 May 2008; completed 21 July 2008 Simple majority
Malta Parliament Approved 28 Jan. 2008; completed 6 Feb. 2008 Simple majority EURACTIV 30/01/08 
Netherlands Parliament Completed 8 July 2008 Simple majority in both chambers EURACTIV 09/07/08
Poland Parliament Parliamentary & governmental process completed 10 April 2008, awaiting President's signature Simple majority (if 'no transfer of powers'), or else 2/3 majority of over 50% of members of both chambers) EURACTIV 02/04/08EURACTIV 31/03/08EURACTIV 18/03/08EURACTIV 11/04/08EURACTIV 25/06/08EURACTIV 01/07/08 
Portugal Parliament Approved 23 April 2008; completed 17 June 2008  Simple majority EURACTIV 10/01/08EURACTIV 24/04/08 
Romania Parliament Approved 4 Feb. 2008; completed 11 March 2008 Simple majority EURACTIV 05/02/08 
Slovakia Parliament Approved by Parliament 10 April 2008; completed 24 June 2008 3/5 majority EURACTIV 05/02/08EURACTIV 08/02/08EURACTIV 11/04/08)
Slovenia Parliament Approved 29 Jan. 2008; completed 24 April 2008 2/3 majority EURACTIV 30/01/08 
Spain Parliament Approved 15 July 2008 Absolute majority (Congress) & simple majority (Senate) EURACTIV 09/07/08
Sweden Parliament Process began 3 July; Parliament to vote on text in autumn Simple majority EURACTIV 09/07/08
United Kingdom Parliament

Approved by Commons on 11 March.  

Approved by Lords summer 2008.

Process completed 16 July 2008.

Simple majority in both Houses   EURACTIV 21/01/08EURACTIV 03/04/08EURACTIV 06/03/08EURACTIV 09/06/08EURACTIV 26/06/08

Source: 
European Policy Centre

 Ratification procedures vary from member state to member state. Most countries will ratify the treaty by parliamentary vote, with a number having already done so.

The failed referenda on the Constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands in 2005, which led to a major impasse in the reform process and the subsequent abandonment of that treaty, mean that this time around, EU governments are anxious to see the Treaty of Lisbon ratified via their national parliaments. 

Due to constitutional obligations, Ireland held a popular referendum on the text on June 12 2008. The treaty was rejected by 53.4% of Irish voters, with just 46.6% voting in its favour. Turnout was not as low as initially predicted, with 53.1% of the electorate participating in the vote. It is the only country to hold a referendum on the text as yet. 

Although most parliamentary chambers require a simple majority in order for the treaty to be adopted, in others, approval must be by absolute majority. Elsewhere, two-thirds or three-fifths of members must give the text the green light. 

Meanwhile, the full plenary of the European Parliament approved the treaty by large majority during its Strasbourg session on 20 February 2008. It was similarly approved by a large majority of MEPs in Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee on 23 January 2008. 

Positions

  • United Kingdom 

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, rejecting calls for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, said it was "fundamentally different" from the constitutional treaty: "Because we have a very different document with our protocol, with our opt-ins, with our emergency breaks, with all these protections of the British national interest, there is no fundamental change and that is why I believe the proper way of discussing this […] is parliamentary debate." 

Disagreeing with the prime minister completely, a report published on 20 January 2008 by the Labour-dominated Foreign Affairs Committee in the UK House of Commons concluded: "There is no material difference between the provisions on foreign affairs in the Constitutional Treaty, which the government made subject to approval in a referendum, and those in the Lisbon Treaty, on which a referendum is being denied." 

UK Green MEP Caroline Lucas called for a referendum on the treaty in the UK, commenting: "Gordon Brown wants to deny us a say on whether to adopt it or not and that's fundamentally undemocratic, whatever you think about the rights or wrongs of the treaty." She added: "It's clear that the proposed EU reform treaty is substantially the same document as the EU constitution, on which Tony Blair promised the British people a referendum." 

The UK-based 'I Want a Referendumcampaign has commissioned the Electoral Reform Services to run a series of 'referenda' on the Lisbon Treaty across Britain, and is organising a mass lobby of Parliament calling for a nationwide referendum on 27 February. 

Neil O'Brien, the director of UK-based, euro-sceptic think-tank 
Open Europe
, said "governments must keep their promise to hold referendums". Declaring that the Treaty of Lisbon "will fool no-one," he said that after considering the details, it "is just the old EU Constitution in everything but name". 

  • France 

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to put France "back in Europe" after the 2005 referendum debacle by being among the first countries to ratify the treaty. 

But the French Socialist Party boycotted a vote in Parliament that allowed ratification to go ahead "to show its displeasure at the procedure chosen" to approve the treaty, according to Bruno Le Roux, the party's national election secretary (EURACTIV 05/02/08). 

France's European Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet stressed the importance of proceeding with the ratification process in other countries after the irish 'no' vote. "Then we shall see with the Irish what type of legal arrangement could be found," he said, pointing to the fact that he believes the Treaty is not dead. 

  • Ireland 

Ireland's EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy stressed that the Irish vote should not be interpreted as a sign of Irish ingratitude but as a vote against "a myriad of other issues," including rising food and oil prices, an economic downturn and the threat of rising unemployment. "There will be those who won't understand and think we have forgotten all the benefits Ireland has obtained from its membership of the EU. But that would be a wrong interpretation. I have no doubt that the vast majority of Irish people want to be fully engaged participants in the European Union," he said. 

He downplayed the Irish 'no', saying the EU would "not grind to a halt" as a result and pointing out that his country was "not alone in being unable to secure a popular endorsement of a European Treaty". "As politicians this is something we need to learn from," he concluded. 

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering stated that the results of the Irish referendum confront the EU "with one of the most difficult challenges in its history". He called on the EU summit on 19-20 June to "take the appropriate steps to make the reform Treaty a reality". "The ratification process must continue without reservation. We call upon the Irish Government to submit proposals as to how we can jointly progress beyond this difficult phase in European politics," the Parliament President said in a written statement, adding that the goal is to see the Treaty enter into force before the June 2009 European elections.

 

  • Czech Republic


After the Czech Republic's highest court ruled that the Lisbon Treaty was consistent with the country's constitution (EURACTIV 26/11/08), Czech Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra said he welcomed "the decision of the Czech Constitutional Court as it will enable us to proceed with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in the Parliament.  I perceive as positive that the procedure has taken place and the Constitutional Court in its capacity answered all questions of the Senate and of the president concerning the compatibility of the Treaty with the Czech Constitutional order. The ruling of the court should dispel possible doubts in this regard which have so far characterised the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in the Czech Republic".

Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg agreed with the deputy prime minister's view of the ruling, saying: "It is good news not only for us, but also for Europe. The Lisbon Treaty is not against the Czech Constitution and for this certitude we have to be glad".

 

Timeline

  • 13 Dec. 2007: EU heads of state and government signed the Treaty of Lisbon.  
  • 20 Feb. 2008: Parliament approved treaty with 525-115 majority.
  • 12 June 2008: Treaty of Lisbon rejected by popular vote in Ireland. 
  • 19-20 June 2008: European Council discussed the aftermath of the Irish referendum. The Irish Government's request for time to analyse the situation was accepted.
  • Oct. 2008: Ireland expected to make proposals at Council summit. 

Further Reading

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