Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Readable Lisbon Treaty: Four months gone and missing

The European Convention worked openly and its draft Constitution was published immediately. The IGC 2004 operated behind the closed doors, and it took one and a half month to publish its full results, the Constitutional Treaty, in the Official Journal.

The Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community was signed at Lisbon 13 December 2007. Today is 16 April 2008, so more than four months have passed without readable, consolidated versions published in each of the now 23 treaty languages.

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The Lisbon Treaty is arguably the most important EC and EU document since 2004. If all legislation including proposals should be in the public domain, in a full and readable form – including tennis rackets aboard planes or not – the founding treaties are the one EU example above all others, long before they enter into force.

The Treaty of Lisbon is the document intended to define our rights and obligations as EU citizens, and of the member state(s) we are citizens of and where we live. We have a legitimate interest to know in full how these relationships are being defined and what the needed ratifications entail.

The Council, I am sorry to say, took the opposite view. Without any public justification it decided to postpone the publication of the consolidated versions until the Lisbon Treaty would have entered into force. If precedents were needed, one would have to return to an almost forgotten era, the Treaty of Nice, signed in 2001, and a world where web publishing was in its early stages.

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Luckily, some private individuals, organisations, parliaments and even governments broke the conspiracy of silence by publishing consolidated versions of the Lisbon Treaty. Among these were some of the governments rumoured to be among the opponents of publishing in the Council.

But until this day, only a part of the citizens of the European Union have access to a (fairly accurate) consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty in their own language.

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Finally, there was good news. The Council must have relented. The following information was posted on the Commission’s web site dedicated to the Lisbon Treaty:

“A consolidated version of the Treaty will be published on 15 April on the web and on 9 May on paper version.”

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Finally, I thought, and 9 April 2008 posted what I reckoned to be the final update on different consolidated versions ‘Consolidated EU Lisbon Treaty Update April 2008’, as a tribute to those who have produced and published consolidations and as a last reminder to those who needed one during the final week before official publication.

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Yesterday was to be the great day for EU citizens.

I scoured every imaginable EU web site in search of the consolidations without finding any new mention (including any explanation for the delay).

Later in the day, I queried Europe direct by e-mail, but received no immediate answer.

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A short while ago I checked the Official Journal of 16 April 2008 as well as the Council’s web site. A new day is beginning, but still nothing.

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In addition to all the lofty principles of closeness, openness, transparency and democracy that permeate the Lisbon Treaty, it is ironic that the same governments who have intentionally delayed the publication of readable treaties are the ones who have declared the importance of national translations in regional and minority languages.

For a good laugh, let us turn to Declaration number 16 contained in the Final Act of the Treaty of Lisbon (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/254):

16. Declaration on Article 53(2) of the Treaty on European Union

The Conference considers that the possibility of producing translations of the Treaties in the languages mentioned in Article 53(2) contributes to fulfilling the objective of respecting the Union's rich cultural and linguistic diversity as set forth in the fourth subparagraph of Article 2(3). In this context, the Conference confirms the attachment of the Union to the cultural diversity of Europe and the special attention it will continue to pay to these and other languages.

The Conference recommends that those Member States wishing to avail themselves of the possibility recognised in Article 53(2) communicate to the Council, within six months from the date of the signature of the Treaty of Lisbon, the language or languages into which translations of the Treaties will be made.

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Yes, how about the official languages to start with?

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The only thing citizens and bloggers can do is to keep the repeated failures of the Council in public view and the intergovernmental machinations in distrust.



Ralf Grahn