European Union leaders on Sunday (1 December) celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty, the union’s legal cornerstone, amid calls to reform a bloc weakened over the past decade by economic and migration crises, rising euroscepticism and Brexit.
Sunday was also the first day at work for the new Commission under its German president, Ursula von der Leyen, as well as for the Council, under Belgium’s Charles Michel.
“Europe is a promise, is future, is something we all have to build, brick by brick and day by day,” von der Leyen said.
Von der Leyen, Michel, as well as European Parliament President Sassoli and the ECB chief Christine Lagarde hosted a ceremony in the House of European History in Brussels.
There couldn’t be a better day for the new Commission to begin our work than the 10th anniversary of the Treaty of Lisbon.
We are the guardians of the Treaties & custodians of the Lisbon spirit. It’s a responsibility towards the European people & our founding fathers and mothers. pic.twitter.com/aLaJA3tdV5
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) December 1, 2019
“We meet here at the House of European History because it is the right place to relaunch the European project. A project that will take the initiative to modernise European democracy, making it more efficient, and develop new European policies”, Sassoli said.
The Parliament President called on the institutions to deliver on the promises made during the past months:
“It is now time to act. Parliament is ready to work as one team with you to continue building Europe. We need to turn the promises of the past few months into results that improve people’s lives. From the fight against climate change to tackling the rise in the cost of living, Europeans want to see real action.
A new chapter for Europe begins. Join me and the Presidents of the @EU_Commission, @EUCouncil, @ecb to mark the start of their new term and to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty https://t.co/zOq600ee29
— David Sassoli (@EP_President) December 1, 2019
He said that on 11 December, the Commission will present to Parliament, in an extraordinary session, its proposals to limit the ecological damage within the Union, through the “new Green deal”. Alongside this he said the Parliament was already working on the preparation of a Conference on Democracy in Europe.
Council President Charles Michel said the Lisbon Treaty was “just as relevant today as it was 10 years ago giving us the tools to tackle our modern-day challenges”.
One important reform, he focused, was the common fight against climate change.
“The treaty gave the EU a new legal “personality”, allowing us to sign vital international agreements, like the Paris Agreement”, Michel said.
Laissons nous inspirer par le traité de Lisbonne pour transformer les réformes positives en réalités quotidiennes pour chaque citoyen.
Les européens, attendent beaucoup de nous.
Travaillons ensemble, en équipe, pour donner ce supplément d'âme au projet européen. https://t.co/OvG6F3ZZT6
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) December 1, 2019
Ten years after the Lisbon Treaty came into force, a bloc conceived to forge unity from the ashes of World War Two finds itself beset by divisions.
Germany and France, long the EU’s main axis, last week called for a “Conference on the Future of Europe”, reporting by mid-2022, to make the EU “more united and sovereign”. .
The Lisbon Treaty simplified decision making in a union recently expanded to 28 members with the inclusion of 12 states from the former Soviet bloc.
It strengthened the role of the elected European Parliament and reduced governments’ veto powers over legislative changes, but still left several areas such as foreign policy and tax requiring unanimity – and thus vulnerable to veto from a single member state.
In 2015, the bloc embarrassingly failed to apply a common asylum policy to tackle an influx of refugees from the Middle East – its worst migration crisis since World War Two.
It is also divided about economic reform, raising fears that the euro currency, shared by 19 of its member states, may not be strong enough to withstand a future financial crisis.