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Q&A: The Lisbon Treaty

Leaders of the European Union's 27 member states meet in Portugal this week to sign what will now become known as the Lisbon Treaty.

 

 

VIEW TREATY DOCUMENTS


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Originally called the Reform Treaty, it was drawn up to replace the draft European constitution after that was thrown out by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

All 27 EU countries will be expected to ratify the Treaty in 2008 with a view to it coming into force in 2009.

How similar will the new treaty be to the draft constitution?

It contains many of the changes the constitution attempted to introduce, for example:

  • A politician chosen to be president of the European Council for two-and-a-half years, replacing the current system where countries take turns at being president for six months

  • A new post combining the jobs of the existing foreign affairs supremo, Javier Solana, and the external affairs commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, to give the EU more clout on the world stage

  • A smaller European Commission, with fewer commissioners than there are member states, from 2014

  • A redistribution of voting weights between the member states, phased in between 2014 and 2017

  • New powers for the European Commission, European Parliament and European Court of Justice, for example in the field of justice and home affairs

  • Removal of national vetoes in a number of areas

Most European leaders acknowledge that the main substance of the constitution will be preserved.

 

If it contains the same substance, why is the Lisbon Treaty not a constitution?

The constitution attempted to replace all earlier EU treaties and start afresh, whereas the new treaty amends the Treaty on the European Union (Maastricht) and the Treaty Establishing the European Community (Rome).

It also drops all reference to the symbols of the EU - the flag, the anthem and the motto - though these will continue to exist.

How long has it taken to agree the treaty?

The effort to draft a constitution began in February 2002 and took two-and-a-half years, but that text became obsolete when it was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

Work began in earnest on a replacement treaty during the German EU presidency, in the first half of 2007, and agreement on the main points of the new treaty was reached at a summit in June.

Negotiations continued behind the scenes over the following months before a final draft was agreed by the leaders of the 27 member states in October.

Why was the constitution dropped?

France and the Netherlands said they would be unable to adopt the constitutional treaty without significant changes, following the 2005 referendums.

The UK also pressed hard for a modest "amending treaty", which could be ratified by means of a parliamentary vote, like earlier EU treaties.

Could the Lisbon Treaty also end up being rejected?

Yes. If just one of the EU's 27 member states fails to ratify the treaty, it cannot come into force.

 

This time, most countries plan to ratify the treaty in parliament, which is less likely to cause an upset than holding a referendum.

So far only one country, Ireland, has said it will definitely hold a referendum.

Although Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty in 2001, most observers believe a comfortable majority will back the Reform Treaty in summer 2008.

Although Denmark had been planning to have a referendum on the constitution, the Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that it would not be necessary to have a vote on the treaty because a government investigation had concluded no transfer of sovereignty was involved.

Will the Lisbon Treaty transfer powers from national governments to the EU?

Although the Danish government would say there is no transfer of sovereignty, opinions differ.

The EU exists by virtue of the fact that countries agree to pool sovereignty in certain areas.

The new treaty deepens co-operation in some areas, and extends it to new areas.

Does the Charter of Fundamental Rights feature in the new treaty?

No. There will be a reference to it, making it legally binding, but the full text does not appear, even in an annex.

The UK has secured a written guarantee that the charter cannot be used by the European Court to alter British labour law, or other laws that deal with social rights. However, experts are divided on how effective this will be.

 

Are any countries seeking opt-outs?

Ireland and the UK currently have an opt-out from European policies concerning asylum, visas and immigration. Under the new treaty they will have the right to opt in or out of any policies in the entire field of justice and home affairs.

Poland is also due to sign up to the guarantees on the Charter of Fundamental Rights negotiated by the UK.

Denmark will continue with its existing opt-out from justice and home affairs, but will gain the right under the new treaty to opt for the pick-and-choose system.

The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has announced that a referendum will be held during the lifetime of the existing parliament on scrapping his country's opt-outs.

When will the new treaty kick in?

The treaty should come into force in 2009 but different parts will take effect at different times:

  • The High Representative on foreign affairs could start work by late 2008, as long as the treaty has been ratified.

  • The new-look European Parliament would not appear until after the European elections in June 2009. In fact, that poll will be seen partly as an endorsement of the new arrangements.

  • The new president of the European Council could also start work at that point.

  • Although a new commission will be chosen in 2009, its size may not be slimmed down until 2014.

  • Some extensions of qualified majority voting (QMV) in the European Council are already in place, such as the appointment of the commission president and the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy - but Poland's objections over voting weights mean the redistribution of votes will not come in until after 2014

    Some of the higher profile aspects of the treaty could begin to appear by the end of 2008 but it could be 10 years before the process is complete.

  •  

    THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN-IS THE EU COMMISSION LISTENING?

    *

    Ditch the EU TREATY after IRISH REJECTION

    SAY VOTERS

    by

    Daniel Martin

    Political Reporter

    [Daily Mail-Wednesday, June 18,2008]

    MORE THAN HALF of voters believe Britain should drop the controversial European Treaty in the wake of its rejection in last week's

    IRISH REFERENDUM'

    The poll comes as the Tories launch a last-ditch bid in the

    HOUSE of LORDS

    today to delay the

    RATIFICATION OF THE TREATY.

    And

    10,000 people

    have signed a

    PETITION

    on the

    DOWNING STREET- WEBSITE

    within the past few days

    JUNE16-2008

    , calling on the

    GOVERNMENT

    NOT TO RATIFY THE BILL

    [WHY DON'T YOU?]

     

    Downing Street website is

    http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Abandon-Lisbon/

    *

    JUNE 18-2008

     

     

     

     
         
     

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