Monday, 24 December 2007

EU Treaty of Lisbon: breach of values with sanctions

The values of the European Union, as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon (in the Treaty on European Union, TEU) are:

Article 1a

The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

***

These values should guide every action by the EU, both internal and external. Countries applying for EU membership have to show that they fulfil the criteria.

The values of the Union apply to the present member states, too. Backsliding on, e.g. democracy, the rule of law or human rights is not allowed. Already a clear risk of a serious breach may be determined, and the procedure may lead to recommendations being issued to the member state.

If a serious and persistent breach is determined, this may lead to sanctions against the culprit. These include suspension of voting rights of the member state in question, but this state is still bound by its membership obligations.

From a citizen’s point of view, the procedures and sanctions mentioned in both the present and the amended Article 7 strengthen democratic and legal rights.

***

The changes between the existing TEU Article 7, Article I-59 of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe and the TEU Article 7, as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon, are of minor importance.

The wording is altered to a degree, e.g. the values referred to are found in Article 1a (presently Article 6), the European Parliament gives its consent (not assent), the European Commission replaces the Commission, and the European Council replaces the Council, meeting in the composition of the Heads of State or Government. The more technical voting arrangements (amended paragraph 5) are moved to Article 309 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

***

The drafting technique used in Article 7, despite the relative simplicity of the amendments, is a convincing example of extreme reader-unfriendliness, with horizontal amendments and minor changes being listed separately from the text of the Article. Not even the paragraphs amended are written in full.

Try yourself to write down the exact contents of this one Article, and multiply the efforts needed by all the teachers and students and other interested citizens all over Europe trying to construct the exact wording of Article 7 (and many more like it), and you understand why centrally compiled, consolidated versions of the Treaty of Lisbon in all the official languages are absolute necessities.

Why has no one stepped forward to claim responsibility for these choices?

Why has no one offered reasons for these choices?

Failing that, the IGC 2007 drafting and the Council’s refusal to publish consolidated versions of the TEU and the TFEU can hardly be seen as inspired by other than an evil genius.

The citizens of the European Union have simply been told to wait for consolidated versions until the ratification processes are over and the Treaty of Lisbon has entered into force.


***

The Treaty on European Union (latest consolidated version OJ 29.12.2006, C 321 E/1) is amended by the Treaty of Lisbon (OJ 17.12.2007, C 306/1), with Article 7 amended and consolidated to read as follows:

Article 7

1. On a reasoned proposal by one third of the Member States, by the European Parliament or by the European Commission, the Council, acting by a majority of four fifths of its members, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 1a. Before making such a determination, the Council shall hear the Member State in question and may address recommendations to it, acting in accordance with the same procedure.

The Council shall regularly verify that the grounds on which such a determination was made continue to apply.

2. The European Council, acting by unanimity on a proposal by one third of the Member States or by the European Commission and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 1a, after inviting the Member State in question to submit its observations.

3. Where a determination under paragraph 2 has been made, the Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to the Member State in question, including the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council. In doing so, the Council shall take into account the possible consequences of such a suspension on the rights and obligations of natural and legal persons.

The obligations of the Member State in question under the Treaties shall in any case continue to be binding on that State.

4. The Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide subsequently to vary or revoke measures taken under paragraph 3 in response to changes in the situation which led to their being imposed.

5. The voting arrangements applying to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council for the purposes of this Article are laid down in Article 309 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

***

My next look at the Treaty of Lisbon is going to concern the Union’s neighbourhood policy.


Ralf Grahn