Legal experts hand over draft EU Treaty for approval

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A draft version of the EU’s new Reform Treaty was provisionally approved by legal experts yesterday (2 October), but some political issues, such as the Polish demand to add the ‘Ioannina compromise’ on voting rights, could resurface at an informal summit two weeks from now.

On 2 October the Portuguese Presidency made it known that legal experts had “found agreement” on the reform of the EU institutions, stating that the “Treaty draft is ready”. The text will now be translated, revised and made available by the end of the week.

This agreement marks a first step towards the adoption of a new text, but European heads of state and governments may open discussions over political issues when they meet at the informal summit in Lisbon on 18 October.

The fresh draft largely sticks to the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) mandate approved by EU leaders in June and therefore leaves out the Polish demand to include the “Ioannina Compromise” allowing for key decisions to be substantially delayed.

The majority of member states prefer to keep this formula out of the text of the new treaty, but with Poland set to face elections on 21 October, its position is difficult to predict.

Discussing the Reform Treaty with members of national parliaments at the European Parliament Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) on 2 October, Committee President and Socialist MEP Jo Leinen warned against the inclusion of the “Ioannina” formula, arguing that its inclusion would make it easier to block decisions – which are already difficult to make in a Union of 27 member states.

Another possible stumbling block is the UK’s opt-out on so-called building measures relating to the Schengen agreement, allowing for passport-free travel within the EU. This issue still needs to be sorted out, but “could be resolved by legal experts within the next 48 hours”, UK government sources told EURACTIV.

Meanwhile, the UK seems to be the only country still considering an opt-out to the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Ireland had earlier backed down from this option. Poland has also changed its attitude, according to MEP and Parliament Representative at the IGC, Elmar Brok (EPP-ED).

However, MEPs remain unhappy about the fact that the full Charter text will not be reproduced in the Treaty, and proposed a solemn declaration of the Charter by EU leaders.

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