hope 2009 will be the year that the Lisbon
Treaty finally comes into effect, after months
The treaty is
aimed at streamlining EU institutions to make
the enlarged bloc of 27 states function better.
Opponents say it is part of a federalist EU
agenda that threatens national sovereignty.
The treaty was
rejected by Irish voters in a referendum on 12
June 2008 and, under EU rules, it cannot enter
into force if any of the 27 member states fails
to ratify it.
Lisbon in December 2007, the treaty was drawn up
to replace the draft European constitution,
which was thrown out by voters in France and the
Netherlands in 2005. Opponents, and even some of
the constitution's architects, say Lisbon
differs little from the constitution.
Can the EU
still complete ratification?
Yes, but it is
not clear what will happen if Irish voters
reject the treaty again in a second referendum
this year. That could scupper the treaty, or at
least further delay its implementation.
At a December
summit EU leaders agreed on a "roadmap" to get
round the blockage caused by the Republic of
Ireland's No vote.
government agreed to put the Lisbon Treaty to a
second referendum by November 2009, in return
for a set of EU "legal guarantees" aimed at
addressing various concerns raised by voters.
The EU pledges not to impose rules on Ireland
concerning taxation, "family" issues - such as
abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage - and the
traditional Irish state neutrality.
new Lisbon deal, French President Nicolas
Sarkozy also said that under Lisbon "every
member state will have a commissioner" - another
concession to Ireland. That promise might prove
difficult to reconcile with the original plan
under Lisbon to have fewer commissioners than
member states, as from 2014.
parliament: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus,
Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany,
Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania,
Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland,
Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain,
referendum: Irish Republic
Legal objections delayed ratification in Czech
Republic, Polish president also delaying
"protocol" will be bolted onto Croatia's treaty
of accession, which will have to be approved by
all 27 member states. Mr Sarkozy said that would
happen "in 2010 or 2011".
again ruled out any renegotiation of Lisbon. The
only countries that have not yet ratified it are
the Czech Republic, Ireland and Poland.
ratification is complicated by the fact that
Czech President Vaclav Klaus, a Eurosceptic,
does not like the treaty. And the Czech Prime
Minister, Mirek Topolanek, says Lisbon
ratification depends on whether MPs vote for the
government's plan to host a US radar base. But
as current holder of the EU presidency the Czech
Republic will not want to be embarrassed over
In the UK, the
opposition Conservatives want a referendum on
Lisbon. If they were to win an early general
election they could conceivably delay
Hungary was the
first of 25 countries to approve the treaty in
President Lech Kaczynski has refused to sign the
treaty for the time being, calling it
"pointless". He says he is waiting for the Irish
question to be resolved.
the only country to hold a referendum?
Yes. Most EU
leaders argue that Lisbon is an amending treaty
which does not transform EU structures to the
extent that a referendum is necessary.
is rejected by the Irish No camp and the British
Conservatives, as well as by many Eurosceptics
across the EU.
One of the
Irish No camp's leaders, Declan Ganley, says his
party Libertas will compete for seats in all EU
states in the June European Parliament
According to an
Irish Supreme Court ruling in 1987, any major
amendment to an EU treaty entails an amendment
to the Irish constitution - and that in turn
requires a referendum.
is Lisbon to the draft constitution?
many of the changes the constitution attempted
to introduce, for example:
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
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.
European Commission, with fewer
commissioners than there are member states,
redistribution of voting weights between the
member states, phased in between 2014 and
2017 - qualified majority voting based on a
"double majority" of 55% of member states,
accounting for 65% of the EU's population.
for the European Commission, European
Parliament and European Court of Justice,
for example in the field of justice and home
national vetoes in a number of areas.
leaders acknowledge that the main substance of
the constitution would be preserved.
contains the same substance, why is the Lisbon
Treaty not a constitution?
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 did
it take 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 that
continued behind the scenes over the following
months before a final draft was agreed by the
leaders of the 27 member states in October 2007.
Why was the
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.
Charter of Fundamental Rights feature in the new
No. There is 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.
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.
During the treaty negotiations, Polish leaders
voiced concern that the charter could contradict
Polish law in moral and family matters.
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
the new treaty kick in?
pre-referendum plan is in disarray now.
Originally, the treaty was supposed to come into
force in January 2009.
The schedule -
which may well change - currently looks like
• The High
Representative on foreign affairs will not start
work until the treaty has been ratified. The new
president of the European Council could also
start work at that point.
• The European
elections in June 2009 will be held under the
existing Nice Treaty. That means there will be
736 seats in the European Parliament - down from
the current 785. Under the Lisbon plan, the
number will be fixed at 751.
• Although a
new European Commission will be chosen in
October 2009, its size will not be slimmed down
extensions of qualified majority voting in the
European Council are already in place, such as
the appointment of the new 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.
It could be at
least 10 years before the process is complete.