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I. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
II. INFORMATION ABOUT THE CONTENT OF THE TREATY OF LISBON
I. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
In December 2000 in Nice, the European Council agreed to revise the Treaties of the European Union, thereby expressing the need to initiate a wider and deeper debate on the future of the Union. The Nice Declaration identified four main topics for consideration:
1. How to establish, and then maintain, a more precise division of responsibilities between the Union and the Member-States in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity,***
2. The status to be given to the Charter of Fundamental Rights proclaimed in Nice,
3. The simplification of the Treaties in order to make them clearer and better understood,
4. The role of national parliaments in the European architecture.
On 15 December 2001, the Laeken European Council adopted the Declaration on the Future of the European Union, committing the Union to becoming more democratic, more transparent and more efficient and to preparing the way for a Constitution for the citizens of Europe.
The Council decided to convene a Convention bringing together all interested parties to examine the vital questions raised by the future development of the Union and to seek different possible answers. Under the chairmanship of Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the Convention, convened between February 2002 and July 2003, formulated a draft Constitutional Treaty.
The resultant draft document formed the basis for negotiations at the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC)***, made up of the Heads of State and Government of the Member States and the acceding countries. The IGC, which was launched on 4 October 2003 during the Italian Presidency of the EU, unanimously adopted the text of the Constitution at the Brussels European Council of 17 and 18 June 2004. The text was signed in Rome on 29 October 2004 by the Heads of State or Government of the EU Member-States and the acceding countries (for more information on the IGC, visit the following website of the EU: http://europa.eu/scadplus/cig2004/index_en.htm).
Subsidiarity: The “subsidiarity principle” means that EU decisions must be taken as closely as possible to the citizen. In other words, the Union does not take action (except on matters for which it alone is responsible) unless EU action is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level
(from Eurojargon at: http://europa.eu/abc/eurojargon/index_en.htm ).
For the text of the Constitutional Treaty and additional information, click here: http://europa.eu/scadplus/constitution/index_en.htm
On 30 June 2005, the Cyprus House of Representatives ratified the Constitutional Treaty with a majority of 60% (visit the website of the Cyprus’ House of Representatives at: http://www.parliament.cy/www_START/index.asp).
Following the rejection of the European Constitution by France and the Netherlands in 2005 in respective referenda, the European Council of June 2005 adopted a declaration on “the ratification of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe”, which called for a “period of reflection” (http://www.consilium.europa.eu/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressData/en/ec/85325.pdf ).
This period was to be used for a broad debate on the future of Europe involving citizens, civil society, social partners, national parliaments and political parties. It was also indicated that European Institutions should make their contribution in the debate, with the European Commission playing a special role.
In October 2005, the European Commission proposed “Plan D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate” with the aim of stimulating a wider debate between the EU’s institutions and European citizens. Plan D set out a structured process which aimed at focusing citizens’ attention on the future of Europe by examining their expectations and discussing the added value and the concrete benefits of community action. The European Council of June 2006, after taking stock of the first phase of the “period of reflection”, decided to extend this period for another year and invited the forthcoming German Presidency to prepare a report on the way forward.
This report, together with the work undertaken by the German Presidency, in the first half of 2007, allowed the European Council at its meeting on 21-22 June 2007 to agree on the convening of an IGC in order to draw up a “Reform Treaty” amending the existing treaties, with a view to enhancing the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the enlarged Union, as well as the coherence of its external action. In this respect, the European Council agreed on a precise mandate regarding the conduct of the work of the IGC. The task of this Intergovernmental Conference was to draw up a Reform Treaty by the end of 2007 (http://www.consilium.europa.eu/showPage.asp?id=1297&lang=en) .
The Portuguese Presidency (second half of 2007) took forward the work done during the German Presidency and on the 19th of October 2007, the informal European Council in Lisbon adopted the final text of the Treaty, as drawn up by the IGC. The Heads of State and Government of the 27 Member States of the European Union signed the Treaty of Lisbon, in the Portuguese capital, on the 13th of December 2007.
The Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December 2009, following ratification by all 27 Member States of the EU, in accordance with their national constitutions. Cyprus ratified the Treaty of Lisbon by Parliamentary vote on the 3rd of July 2008.
For more information on the Treaty of Lisbon, click here:
The text of the Treaty can be found, in all official languages of the EU, in the following website:
II. INFORMATION ABOUT THE CONTENT OF THE TREATY OF LISBON
1. First, the Treaty of Lisbon no longer carries the title “Constitution”. This is so because the Treaty of Lisbon does not aspire to replace all earlier EU treaties and start anew, like the Constitutional Treaty attempted to do, but goes back to the traditional method of amending a Treaty. In this sense, the Treaty of Lisbon amends the Treaty establishing the European Community and the Treaty on European Union. (All texts of EU treaties can be found on the following website: http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/lex/el/treaties/index.htm#accession ). It is noted that the Treaty establishing the European Community will be renamed as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, while the Treaty on European Union will retain its title. The two Treaties will have the same rank.
2. The Constitutional Treaty included a reference to the symbols of the EU, which are the flag, the anthem, the euro, the motto (“United in Diversity”) and Europe Day (9th May). In the Treaty of Lisbon this reference is omitted, though these symbols will continue to exist.
It is noted that Cyprus, together with fifteen other Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Hungary, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic), signed a Declaration on the symbols of the European Union, which was annexed to the Final Act of the Intergovernmental Conference of 2007. The Declaration reads as follows:
“ 52. Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Hungary, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic declare that the flag with a circle of twelve golden stars on a blue background, the anthem based on the "Ode to Joy" from the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, the motto "United in diversity", the euro as the currency of the European Union and Europe Day on 9 May will for them continue as symbols to express the sense of community of the people in the European Union and their allegiance to it”.
[Complete Text of the Final Act of the Intergovernmental Conference 2007:
3. The full text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights is not included in the text of the Treaty. Instead, there is a cross-reference to the Charter. This does not affect in any way the legal value of the Charter.
Intergovernmental Conference (IGC): A conference at which the EU member states' governments come together to amend the European Union treaties
(from Eurojargon at http://europa.eu/abc/eurojargon/index_en.htm ).
The Treaty of Lisbon is the natural outcome of the EU’s continuous evolvement. In response to the new global challenges and with the view to render the European Union more efficient, more democratic and more coherent, the European Union needs to reform its way of functioning. It is recalled, in this respect, that the EU no longer comprises of 15 Member States but of 27; it is therefore imperative to amend its rules of procedure in order to permit the Union to function properly with an enlarged number of Member States.
The Treaty of Lisbon aims at modernizing the European Union and rendering it more efficient. In addition, the Treaty of Lisbon seeks to strengthen the role of the EU on the international scene and to give it a more unified voice as regards external relations.
Finally, the Treaty of Lisbon reinforces the role of the European citizens in the formulation of EU’s policies and puts in place certain safeguards which will allow the democratic participation of citizens in the decision-making process of the EU.
- Why does the European Union need the Treaty of Lisbon?
The Treaty of Lisbon introduces a number of institutional changes which aim at rendering the EU more efficient and at strengthening its voice in the world. These changes include:
- What are the institutional changes brought about with the Treaty of Lisbon?
- Creation of a new post of President of the European Council, to be elected by the European Council by qualified majority for a term of two and a half years (renewable only once). The President will ensure the continuity and coherence of the work undertaken by the European Council.
- Creation of the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to be appointed by the European Council by qualified majority (with the agreement of the President of the European Commission and the European Parliament). He/she will also be one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission, and will chair the External Relations Council. This will reinforce the coherence of the EU’s external action and raise the EU’s profile in the world, “putting a face” on the Union.
- As regards the Commission, as from 2014 the number of the Commissioners should be reduced to two-thirds of the number of Member States, “unless the European Council, acting unanimously, decides to alter this number”. [For more information on the Commission, visit its website at : http://www.ec.europa.eu/ ].
- Moreover, the Treaty provides that the European Parliament (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/) will have no more than 751 members. The delegate numbers for each country have been fixed to a maximum of 96 and a minimum of 6 for each Member State. Cyprus will continue to have 6 representatives in the European Parliament.
- The Treaty of Lisbon extends the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice in relation to matters falling within the scope of judicial cooperation in criminal matters and police cooperation and introduces some amendments with regards to its procedures.
Up until now, the European Union had the power to conclude international agreements on behalf of its Member States, where they had decided on a common policy. However, due to the fact that the Union lacked what is known as a single legal personality, the Union signed up to these international obligations in many different ways. The Treaty of Lisbon ends this confusion by creating a single legal personality for the EU for the first time.
This of course does not mean that the EU will have the right to sign up to any agreement without the consent of the Member States. Member States will continue to task the EU to negotiate on their behalf in exactly the same way as they do now and will have the final say over whether the EU should sign up to any agreements.
The Treaty introduces the solidarity clause (article 188R of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) whereby it is provided that the Union and its Member States will act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a Member State is the subject of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster. In this respect, it is stated that the Union will mobilize all the instruments at its disposal, including the military resources made available by the Member States, in the abovementioned cases.
For the first time, the Treaty provides for the right of a Member State to withdraw from the EU, if it so wishes, and it sets out the relevant procedure (see Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon).
The Treaty of Lisbon includes a number of provisions which aim at rendering the way of functioning of the European Union more democratic, open, accessible and transparent.
The Treaty, therefore, clearly provides that “the functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy” and continues by stating that “every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.” (Article 8A of the amended Treaty on European Union).
In this respect, the Treaty of Lisbon introduces provisions which strengthen the role of the European Parliament and the national parliaments in the decision-making process of the EU, bring the EU closer to its citizens by giving them the opportunity to be more directly involved in the workings of the Union and clarify the areas of competence between the institutions and the Member States.
1. Strengthening the role of the European Parliament
The Treaty of Lisbon reinforces significantly the role of the European Parliament in the decision-making process of the EU by extending the “co-decision procedure” between the Council and the Parliament to forty new legislative areas. The co-decision procedure is renamed to “ordinary legislative procedure”.
The extension of the co-decision procedure entails a reinforcement of the European Parliament’s legislative power in certain areas in which, until now, it either did not have a role or participated simply in a consultative capacity. Within these new forty legislative areas are included: migration, judicial cooperation in criminal cases, police cooperation, certain provisions of the common trade policy, certain provisions of the common agricultural policy, etc.
With reference to the budget, it is noted that with the Treaty of Lisbon the adoption of the “multi-annual financial framework” of the Union will need the approval of the European Parliament (article 272 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union). Moreover, the Treaty provides that the European Parliament and the Council will jointly decide on the extent of the expenditure to be included in the budget and eliminates the existing distinction between mandatory and non-mandatory expenditure. This amendment ensures the equilibrium between the European Parliament and the Council with regards to their role in formulating and adopting the Union’s budget.
In addition, the Treaty of Lisbon provides that the approval of the European Parliament will be necessary for the conclusion of association agreements between the Union and third countries as well as for the conclusion of agreements which concern areas which fall under the ordinary legislative procedure.
Furthermore, the European Parliament’s approval will be necessary for the appointment of the High Representative, as it is for the rest of the Members of the European Commission.
Finally, the European Parliament will elect the President of the European Commission by majority of its Members, following a relevant proposal by the European Council (see Article 9D (7) of the Treaty on European Union).
With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty (01.12.09), the European Council decided that transitional provisions should be taken in order for the European Parliament to benefit from the Treaty provisions related to its composition for the remainder of the term 2009 -2014. As a consequence, the number of MEPs will increase from 736 to 754. The Lisbon Treaty sets the upper limit of 751 seats. However, following a political agreement Germany will continue to have 3 additional seats by 2014. 12 Member States will benefit from the increase of the number of seats in the European Parliament (4 for Spain, 2 for France, Austria and Sweden and 1 for Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and the United Kingdom).
On June 23, 2010 the relevant Protocol amending the Protocol 36 of the Lisbon Treaty for the increase of the seats in the European Parliament was signed. The Protocol will enter into force once it is ratified by all Member States. So far 22 have ratified it, including the Republic of Cyprus.
2. Strengthening the role of national Parliaments
The role of national Parliaments as key players of the democratic fabric of the EU is enhanced by the Treaty of Lisbon. The Treaty provides for specific arrangements in order to strengthen the involvement of national Parliaments in the work of the Union.
According to the Protocol on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union, the institutions of the Union have the obligation to forward all draft legislative acts to the national Parliaments, which will review them in order to make sure that they respect the principle of subsidiarity. National Parliaments may then send to the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission a reasoned opinion on whether a draft legislative act complies with the principle of subsidiarity. The time-frame for sending such an opinion is eight weeks.
According to the Protocol on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiary and Proportionality, each national Parliament shall have two votes. Where reasoned opinions on a draft legislative act's non-compliance with the principle of subsidiarity represent at least one third of all the votes allocated to the national Parliaments, the draft must be reviewed.
Furthermore, under the ordinary legislative procedure, where reasoned opinions on the non-compliance of a proposal for a legislative act with the principle of subsidiarity represent at least a simple majority of the votes allocated to the national Parliaments, the proposal must be reviewed. After such review, the Commission may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw the proposal.
It is also noted that the Protocol on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union provides that the European Parliament and national Parliaments shall together determine the organization and promotion of effective and regular interparliamentary cooperation within the Union.
In addition, national Parliaments will have the right to participate in the revision procedures of the Treaties (see Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union). It is underlined, in this respect, that particularly as regards proposed amendments of the Treaties concerning the manner of voting (i.e. moving from unanimous to qualified majority voting) and amendments concerning the legislative procedure to be followed (i.e. moving from special legislative procedure to ordinary legislative procedure), national parliaments will be notified of the said amendments and will be able to signal their opposition to a specific amendment within six months. The opposition by a national Parliament will prevent the Council from adopting the change to the voting method.
3. Citizens’ Initiative
An important novelty introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon is the European Citizens’ Initiative. According to Article 8C of the Treaty on European Union (as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon), one million citizens coming from a significant number of Member States may take the initiative to invite the Commission to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaty of Lisbon. The details of this procedure will be set out in specific legislation. http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/citizens_initiative/index_el.htm.
4. More democratic and transparent decision-making process
The decision-making process is made more transparent and more democratic by the Treaty of Lisbon since:
- As regards the European Central Bank or the Court of Auditors, the Treaty of Lisbon does not introduce any major amendments
- The Treaty provides that the Council shall meet in public when it deliberates and votes on a draft legislative act (article 9C of the Treaty on European Union). The work of the Council will therefore be more transparent, while access by journalists to the Council meetings will mean a greater flow of information to the general public about the legislation of the EU.
- Exclusive Competences: Policy areas where only the Union may legislate and adopt legally binding acts, the Member States being able to do so themselves only if so empowered by the Union or for the implementation of Union acts. Examples of such policy areas are the customs Union, the monetary Union, the common trade policy, competition, etc. These competences are outlined in Article 2B of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.
- Shared Competences: Policy areas where the Union and the Member States may legislate and adopt legally binding acts. The Member States shall exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised its competence. Examples of policy areas falling under this category are the internal market, environment, energy, agriculture, research and technology etc. These competences are outlined in Article 2C of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.
- Supplementary competences: Policy areas where the Union shall have competence to carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States, without thereby superseding their competence in these areas, e.g. culture, tourism, sports, youth etc. These competences are outlined in Article 2E of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU
The Treaty of Lisbon includes a number of provisions which aim at facilitating the decision-making in the Union and thereby at increasing its effectiveness:
- The Treaty establishes a clearer distribution of powers between the Union and the Member States. In this respect, the Union’s competences are clearly defined, leaving no room for uncertainty or confusion. According to Article 2A of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the Union’s competences are divided in three categories: Exclusive competences, shared competences and supplementary competences.
- Extension of the Qualified Majority Voting: The Treaty of Lisbon introduces the qualified majority voting in 40 new areas of EU policy, including the fight against climate change, energy and energy solidarity, research, integration and the fight against discrimination, emergency humanitarian assistance, the fight against organized crime and terrorism. Decisions regarding the CFSP, taxation, defense, social security and culture will continue to be taken by consensus. The new system will come into force in 2014, with a transition period extending until 2017.
- A majority of Member States approve (in some cases a two-thirds majority);
- A minimum of 255 votes is cast in favour of the proposal, out of a total of 345 votes:
In addition, according to the provisions of the Treaty of Nice, a Member State may ask for confirmation that the votes in favour represent at least 62% of the total population of the Union. If this is found not to be the case, the decision will not be adopted. However, this condition applied only if verification was requested.
With the Treaty of Lisbon, the abovementioned system of calculating the votes in the Council will change. In this sense, the Treaty establishes a double majority system which is going to be calculated according to two criteria:
- State: 55% of EU States (i.e. at least 15 out of 27 Member States)
- Population : 65% of the EU's population
The change introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon in the calculation of votes in the qualified-majority voting will facilitate the creation of majorities and therefore the decision-making of the European Council.
- New System of Majority Voting: Before the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon (i.e. according to the provisions of the Nice Treaty – 2001), the qualified majority voting in the European Council was calculated according to a weighting of votes. Therefore, Member States had a certain number of votes according to their demographic weight. A qualified majority was reached if the following two conditions were met:
The Treaty of Lisbon simplifies significantly the rules on “enhanced co-operation”, where some EU Member States may work together more closely on certain issues. In this regard, certain safeguards are put in place to ensure that the rights of countries which don’t participate are respected: at least a third of the Member States must want to co-operate, and others must be free to join at any time, if they so decide.
No. The Treaty of Lisbon recognizes the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and specifies that the Charter shall have the same legal value as the Treaties. The institutions of the European Union have an obligation to respect the rights included in the Charter. These obligations are also incumbent upon the Member States when they implement the Union’s legislation. The role of the Court of Justice as regards the Charter of Fundamental Rights will be to ensure its correct application.
- Simplified rules on “Enhanced Cooperation”
According to the Treaty, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall be assisted by a European External Action Service (http://www.eeas.europa.eu/index_en.htm). In November 2009, the European Council appointed Catherine Ashton High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In this capacity she chairs the Foreign Affairs Council. She is also a Vice-President of the European Commission and ensures consistency and coordination of EU external action.
This service will work in cooperation with the diplomatic services of the Member States and will comprise officials from the European Commission, the General Secretariat of the Council and the Diplomatic Services of EU Member States (http://www.eeas.europa.eu/background/docs/organisation_en.pdf).
The organization and functioning of the European External Action Service was established by a decision of the Council (http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/10/st08/st08029.en10.pdf). It entered into force the 1st of December 2010.
5 July 2011
Charter of Fundamental Rights: The Charter of Fundamental Rights sets out a whole range of civil, political and social rights of EU citizens. It is divided into six chapters: Dignity, Freedom, Solidarity, Equality, Citizenship and Justice, and covers everything from prohibition of torture, respect for private and family life, the right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial, workers' social rights to bioethics, the protection of personal data, the right to vote and stand as a candidate at elections to the European Parliament.
[For the text of the Charter and additional information: http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/unit/charte/index_en.html ].
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