For most enlightened citizens it is enough to know the main changes the Reform Treaty of the European Union (Lisbon Treaty) brings about. The distinction between the European Union and the European Community, long ago abandoned in daily news reporting and colloquial speech, is going to disappear from the founding treaties. The main changes aim to improve the decision making and working of the EU institutions, so the benefits for the citizens are indirect: improved governance hopefully leads to better results for the citizens.
Almost all the media and many information services have reported on the new treaties and some of them have published fairly detailed fact sheets for general consumption.
But the European Union is also an object of study, research or work for many people. They need more detailed information. The Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, including protocols and declarations, have been published on the Internet in all the official languages of the EU, except Irish.
The Treaty of Lisbon or Reform Treaty is highly unreadable, since only the amendments are presented, in a parsimonious manner.
The Council and the institutions of the European Union, as well as the governments of the member states, have refused to publish updated, consolidated versions for the general public for the time being. Luckily, a few research institutes and think-tanks have stepped in to fill the void. Already Spanish, French and English consolidations of the Lisbon Treaty are available, anticipating the contents of the treaties when in force.
The principle of equality of all EU citizens makes it highly desirable that the 20 language versions still missing could be published soon, even if equality has to be achieved without support from the EU institutions and the national governments. If there are not enough think-tanks and research institutes willing to take on the task, perhaps university, college or commercial publishers could sense an opportunity in addition to a civic duty. (For readers interested in basic information or consolidation, I refer to my earlier postings.)
There is, of course, en extensive literature on the now defunct Constitution. But more advanced analyses, specifically based on the Lisbon Treaty, are starting to appear. One good example is the joint study by three think-tanks based in Brussels – EPC, Egmont ja CEPS – which takes a fairly deep look at the institutional amendments: The Treaty of Lisbon: Implementing the Institutional Innovations.
In 147 pages the study offers a background view of the reforms and presents their contents, but goes further than that. The writers try to assess the scope and impacts of the proposed changes in real life.
The study is divided in chapters on the different institutions or subject matters: the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Presidency of the Council, Qualified Majority Voting in the Council, National Parliaments, Enhanced Cooperation and Foreign Policy.
What was lost and what remained, when the 2001 Laeken declaration’s aims of a more democratic, transparent and efficient Union, in 2007 became an unreadable text, negotiated in secrecy, far from public scrutiny?
According to the writers, it would be sad to think that this complex document is the last word in institutional reform. They hope for a codified, clarified and readable future version of European rules and procedures.
The study can be downloaded for free from the web pages of the institutes.
The Treaty of Lisbon: Implementing the Institutional Innovations; November 2007
CEPS, the Centre for European Policy Studies; http://www.ceps.eu
Egmont, the Royal Institute for International Relations; http://www.egmontinstitute.be
EPC, the European Policy Centre; http://www.epc.eu