Implementing the Treaty of Lisbon

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon’s institutional innovations may encounter “serious difficulties”, according to an analysis by three Brussels think tanks.

The November paper, compiled by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), the European Policy Centre (EPC) and Egmont, argues that in focusing too much on the legal provisions themselves, not enough attention has yet been given to their potentially problematic implementation. 

The main problem areas identified by the authors include the functioning of the European institutions, the qualified majority voting (QMV) system, the role of national parliaments, enhanced cooperation and foreign policy, and solutions are suggested accordingly. 

The paper argues that the future treaty produces “the exact opposite” of the Union that is more democratic, efficient and closer to its citizens – and the text drafted “in full transparency” – deemed necessary by the 2001 Laeken declaration. 

The authors describe the new treaty as an “obscure” and “complex” document, “full of cross references, after thoughts, protocols and declarations, like so because “governments and public opinion have lost any appetite they might have had for institutional debate and constitutional reform”. 

They express their hope that it will be possible to get “a readable version of European rules and procedures” in future. 

The paper claims that future treaty change will now first be attempted without resorting to the “ordinary” procedure of calling a convention and intergovernmental conference. 

Instead, leaders may favour “simplified revision procedures”, including by parliamentary assent and a unanimous Council decision, thus producing a treaty ratified by member states “according to their constitutional procedures”, or by providing for enhanced cooperation. 

The paper concludes by predicting that the postponement of important institutional reforms, including the composition of the Commission and the Council presidency, may become “a source of tension and uncertainty” in the EU. 

The authors add that “the estrangement of public opinion […] is not likely to diminish” and may have been aggravated by the “technocratic” Treaty of Lisbon, and hope that measures such as a new role for national parliaments and the politicisation of the appointment of the Commission president will bring citizens closer to the EU. 

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