Slovenia and Malta have become the latest countries to ratify the new EU Treaty agreed upon by EU leaders in December last year.
The two countries ratified the Treaty of Lisbon via their national parliaments yesterday (29 January), joining Hungary on the list of member states to have approved the text so far. All three have done so by parliamentary vote.
Slovenia’s early approval of the treaty is seen as particularly significant given that the country of two million inhabitants currently holds the EU’s rotating Council presidency. A large majority of parliamentarians supported the text, with 74 voting in its favour and just six against.
Congratulating Slovenia, Commission President José Manuel Barroso described the vote as an “expression of Slovenian support for a more effective, democratic, transparent and stronger European Union”. He added that it was an “encouraging and positive signal” that the holder of the EU presidency was among the first countries to approve the text.
UK Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff, ALDE spokesman on constitutional affairs, said Slovenia’s “overwhelming vote of support” gave a “clear lead to other parliaments”, and stated that the country’s contribution to the “momentum” of the EU “put to shame older and richer member states which show less confidence”.
Meanwhile, Maltese MPs unanimously approved a motion to ratify the treaty put forward by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, with government and opposition parties united in support of the text largely due to its provision of an extra MEP for the island.
Offering his congratulations, President Barroso particularly welcomed the “unanimous agreement” reached in Malta. Describing enlargement as an inspiration for future European integration, he said it was “particularly symbolic” that the first three states to ratify the treaty only joined the EU in 2004.
The vast majority of EU members are expected to opt to ratify the new treaty via national parliaments. Hungary became the first EU member to ratify the new treaty following an overwhelmingly successful parliamentary vote on 17 December 2007 (see EURACTIV 18/12/07).
Due to constitutional obligations, Ireland is currently the only country heading for a referendum on the text, with the popular vote expected to take place in June this year. However, pressure on the UK government to put the new treaty to a referendum has been growing ever since it was signed by EU leaders in Lisbon at the end of 2007 (see EURACTIV 21/01/08).