The Lisbon Treaty: what will change? - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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The Lisbon Treaty: what will change?

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Today, Tuesday 1st December, is an important day - and not just because you can open the first door on your chocolate advent calendar. No, I speak about the history of Europe, which has this morning seen the arrival into force after eight long years of negociation and struggle of the Lisbon Treaty. But what will change as a result.

Well, it's most prominent innovations include the creation of a permanent president of the European Council and a High Representative to oversee EU foreign policy, and head a new large diplomatic corps. Of course we know that Belgian Herman van Rompuy and Brit Catherine Ashton will occupy these roles respectively (see blog entry).

But the most profound change with the Lisbon Treaty is internal - with massive increases in responsibility for the European Parliament:

  • MEPs will now have their say over a wide range of new areas including farm and fisheries policy, transport, structural funds and justice and home affairs.

  • The major change is that the Parliament will have a full say in the EU budget. Before now, the Parliament was just consulted and its opinions ignored when it came to compulsory expenditure (such as the Common Agricultural Policy) which represents 45% of the budget. Now, the adoption of the full budget will require Parliamentary consent via vote.

  • Member states' ability to veto has been markedly reduced and the majority of votes held in the Parliament will now require a Qualified Majority.

  • That said, votes upon issues such as taxation, social security, citizens' rights, foreign and defence policy and where EU institutions sit geographically are still subject to agreement by member-state unanimity.

  • The EU will become more democratic too with national parliaments gaining some powers to scrutinise legislation to make sure it is proportionate and being enacted at the right level. They will have eight weeks once the Commission has adopted its proposal to scrutinise it and give their consent. If not, the Commission will have to reconsider. If consent is given, Parliament and the Council will begin its readings.

  • Petitions with the signature of one million citizens across the EU will now results in the Commission being obliged to look into acting on the issue concerned.

  • The European Court of Justice will gain new powers to rule in the area of freedom, security and justice as well as judging whether member states are implementing EU laws according to the Charter of Fundamental Rights (a document that all member states except Britain, Poland and the Czech Republic have signed up to).

  • And last but by no means least, the number of MEPs will rise. Currently 736 as laid down in the Nice Treaty, it will rise to 751, with 18 new members to take their seats in the hemicycles. For the time being, the newcomers will only have observer status until the next elections, where Germany will lose three of its existing seats (the UK will gain one).


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