Sunday, 16 December 2007

EU Treaty of Lisbon: Member States

Surely, not only one, but 27 European governments must have signed away their countries, freedoms, democracy, the rule of law as well as their cultures, traditions and languages on that fatal 13 December 2007 in Lisbon, didn’t they?

Everything worth living and dying for was crushed by the new evil empire born, the European Superstate, wasn’t it?

Alice in Wonderland never had the hallucinating experiences a few glimpses of the English tabloids and blogosphere offer in abundance. Vitriolic distortion seems to be par for the course.

Judging from the shouted comments, few of the scare-mongering crowd have read the existing EU and EC Treaties or the amending Treaty of Lisbon, and even fewer have understood their contents.

The government of the United Kingdom has, along with 26 other governments, signed the Reform Treaty of the European Union, named the Treaty of Lisbon. But the UK government and Parliament have not stood up for the amending Treaty.

Mainly, they have been busy with explaining and exploring where they have managed to obstruct the progress of others and how convincingly they have been able to distance themselves from the rest of Europe by various opt-outs and quibbles over wording.

Instead of relinquishing new powers to the European Union, the Member States have mainly tinkered with the internal “rules of procedure” in order to make the enlarged Union become a bit less ineffective in dealing with the competences it already has.

Effectiveness, democracy and solidarity have advanced timorously. On the whole, the European Union is not going to be able to act decisively on the world stage, in spite of growing global challenges.

The foreign, security and defence policies of the European Union continue to be highly intergovernmental and ineffective, requiring unanimity in crucial decisions (liberum veto) and practically outside democratic scrutiny at the Union level. That the individual governments lack the capacity to meet the main challenges effectively, seems to be a minor concern.


Let us look at what the amended Treaty on European Union actually says.

After the basic Treaty structure, values and objectives of the European Union, we reach some of the umpteen reminders that the EU at this stage is mainly a creature of Member States’ governments, and that the Union is held on a short leash (well too short to achieve its most important aims).

Instead of a list of overwhelming powers being relinquished by the governments, we are confronted with a variety of clauses hedging in the capacity of the European Union to act.

Up front, the EU Treaty resembles the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not …

Time and again, we are reminded of what the Union shall not do, irrespectively of if the Member States can meet the challenges effectively on their own.


The new Article 3a, paragraph 1, tells us that the European Union exercises only the powers conferred upon it. The principle of attributed powers limits the scope of Union legislation and action. Everything the EU does, has to be based on the Treaties.

All other powers (competences) remain with the Member States. And the Member States themselves, through their representatives, man the European Council and the Council, the two most important institutions of the EU.

The European Union may not be fully democratic, but it is subject to the rule of law.

In addition to the principle of equality of Member States, Article 3a, paragraph 2, contains a host of pointers on the questions remaining within the purview of the Member States. National identities, political and constitutional structures, regional and local self-government, territorial integrity, law and order as well as national security (mentioned twice) remain, fundamentally, matters for the Member States. (This follows the wording of the Constitutional Treaty, Article I-5, paragraph 1, except for the mainly repetitive words now added: In particular, national security remains the sole responsibility of each Member State.)

Since the European Union is a joint effort, established to promote common interests, Article 3a, paragraph 3, reminds us that team efforts are needed. On the whole, the European Union lacks the administrative machinery needed to execute its acts and decisions. Therefore, the Member States have an obligation to fulfil these obligations. This shall be done in a spirit of loyal cooperation. (Article 10 of the current TEC is essentially the same as the second and third subparagraphs of Article 3a(3); Article I-5, paragraph 2, of the Constitutional Treaty would have been essentially the same as the whole paragraph 3 of Article 3a).


The Treaty on European Union, as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon (CIG 14/07). Article 3 is repealed and the following Article 3a is inserted:

1. In accordance with Article 3b, competences not conferred upon the Union in the Treaties remain with the Member States.

2. The Union shall respect the equality of the Member States before the Treaties as well as their national identities, inherent in their fundamental structures, political and constitutional, inclusive of regional and local self-government. It shall respect their essential State functions, including ensuring the territorial integrity of the State, maintaining law and order and safeguarding national security. In particular, national security remains the sole responsibility of each Member State.

3. Pursuant to the principle of sincere cooperation, the Union and the Member States shall, in full mutual respect, assist each other in carrying out tasks which flow from the Treaties.

The Member States shall take any appropriate measure, general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the Treaties or resulting from the acts of the institutions of the Union.

The Member States shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives.


The Member States are mentioned ad nauseam in the amended Treaty on European Union, but otherwise I see very little to merit popular uprisings or grave insults. Tedious stuff, mainly.

I realise that I am a hack, totally lacking the inventive spirit of tabloid journalists.

Ralf Grahn