Tuesday, 10 March 2009

EU Lisbon Treaty implementation and institutional relations

Preparatory work is needed to implement the Treaty of Lisbon, should it enter into force, but the previous blog post left us wondering what the French Council Presidency did during the latter half of 2008 and what the Czech Council Presidency is doing during the first six months of 2009.

What we see is our leaders’ steadily decreasing level of commitment to open dialogue.


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Initial plan

The European Council on 14 December 2007, just after signing the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Council gave the go-ahead for preparatory work, underlining its comprehensive nature and the need for a single framework, agreeing that it:

"will take stock of progress on necessary preparatory work when appropriate so as to ensure the full functioning of the Treaty as soon as it enters into force. It underlines the comprehensive nature of this exercise and the consequent need for a single framework as well as political guidance at the highest level. Technical work will start in Brussels in January on the basis of a work programme which will be presented under the authority of the incoming President of the European Council."


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Slovenian Council Presidency: Almost comprehensive

The Slovenian Council Presidency began by preparing a memorandum on the outstanding implementation issues. The memo was not published voluntarily or on my request, but leaked. The Finnish Government followed the preparatory work in public documents it forwarded to the Parliament of Finland.

The last more or less comprehensive EU report on preparatory work seems to be the ‘Progress report from the Presidency to the European Council ─ Preparatory work in view of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty’ from the Slovenian Council Presidency to the European Council 19 and 20 June 2008 (Council document 10650/08, 13 June 2008):

http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/08/st10/st10650.en08.pdf

In this report a selection of unfinished items was presented with fairly bland comments.


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French Council Presidency: Far from comprehensive

As far as I have been able to ascertain, the French Council Presidency produced no comprehensive report on preparatory work to implement the Lisbon Treaty.

The way forward after the Irish referendum result was a recurring question. In the Presidency Conclusions of the Brussels European Council 11 and 12 December 2008 (Council document 17271/1/08 REV 1) the heads of government and state agreed to give the assurances required by the Irish Government in case the Lisbon Treaty enters into force:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/104692.pdf


This path forward was based on the concerns expressed by the Irish Prime Minister and annexed to the Conclusions:


Statement of the Concerns of the Irish People on the Treaty of Lisbon as set out by the Taoiseach

a) Ensuring that Ireland's requirements regarding maintenance of its traditional policy of neutrality are met;

b) Ensuring that the terms of the Treaty of Lisbon will not affect the continued application of the provisions of the Irish Constitution in relation to the right to life, education and the family;

c) Ensuring that in the area of taxation the Treaty of Lisbon makes no change of any kind to the extent or operation of the Union's competences;

d) Confirming that the Union attaches high importance to:

• social progress and the protection of workers' rights;

• public services, as an indispensable instrument of social and regional cohesion;

• the responsibility of Member States for the delivery of education and health services;

• the essential role and wide discretion of national, regional and local Governments in providing, commissioning and organising non-economic services of general interest which is not affected by any provision of the Treaty of Lisbon, including those relating to the common commercial policy.


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Neutrality and defence

Parenthetically we can remark that the leaders of the EU member states were willing to ensure that Ireland's requirements regarding maintenance of its traditional policy of neutrality are met (as they already are under the Lisbon Treaty), but the longer and deeper Ireland remains attached to this historical legacy, the further the conceptual and practical its distance becomes to the quasi-totality of the European Union, which moves towards common security and defence policies.


Point 30 of the Presidency Conclusions remarked:

“The European Council states its determination to give, by means of the attached declaration [Annex 2], a fresh impetus to the European Security and Defence Policy. Compliant with the principles of the United Nations Charter and the decisions of the United Nations Security Council, this policy will continue to develop in full complementarity with NATO in the agreed framework of the strategic partnership between the EU and NATO and in compliance with the decision-making autonomy and procedures of each. To this end, the European Council shares the analysis of the report on the implementation of the European Security Strategy of 2003 and endorses the declarations adopted by the Council [references in Annex 6], which agree on new goals for strengthening and optimising European capabilities in the years ahead and emphasise the EU's desire to work for the cause of international peace and security, while making a tangible contribution to the security of its citizens.”


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Interinstitutional matters



In addition, the December 2008 European Council issued three Declarations closer to the interinstitutional relations. Three questions felt to be urgent, but without public debate and far from a comprehensive framework for the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon:




Declaration of the European Council

Treaty of Lisbon – Transitional measures concerning the Presidency of the European Council and the Presidency of the Foreign Affairs Council

In the event that the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force at a date when a six-monthly Presidency of the Council has already begun, the European Council agrees that, as a matter of transition, in order to take into account the preparatory work and ensure harmonious continuity of work:

− the competent authorities of the Member State holding the six-monthly Presidency of the Council at that time will continue to chair all the remaining meetings of the Council and the European Council, as well as third-country meetings, until the end of the period of office;

− the following six-monthly Presidency of the Council will be in charge of taking the necessary specific measures relating to the organisational and material aspects of the Presidency of the European Council and of the Foreign Affairs Council during its period of office, in conformity with the Treaty. On these issues, close consultation will be established between this Presidency and the President (elect) of the European Council and the High Representative (designate) of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.


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Declaration of the European Council

Treaty of Lisbon – Transitional measures concerning the composition of the European Parliament

In the event that the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force after the European elections of June 2009, transitional measures will be adopted as soon as possible, in accordance with the necessary legal procedures, in order to increase, until the end of the 2009-2014 legislative period, in conformity with the numbers provided for in the framework of the IGC which approved the Treaty of Lisbon, the number of MEPs of the twelve Member States for which the number of MEPs was set to increase. Therefore, the total number of MEPs will rise from 736 to 754 until the end of the 2009-2014 legislative period. The objective is that this modification should enter into force, if possible, during the year 2010.



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Declaration of the European Council

Treaty of Lisbon – Appointment of the future Commission

The European Council agrees that the process of appointment of the future Commission, in particular the designation of its President, will be initiated without delay after the European Parliament elections of June 2009.



[Ironically, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the first to air doubts about these principles agreed under the French Council Presidency.]


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Czech Council Presidency: No comprehension?


The Czech Republic took over the rotating EU Council Presidency at the beginning of 2009. Afraid that I have missed important developments in spite of reading and searches, I made an additional search on the Czech web pages for “Lisbon Treaty” and Treaty of Lisbon”. The result in both cases was “No matches found”.

Not only does the Czech Senate excel in inventing new pretexts to postpone the ratification vote on the Treaty of Lisbon (ad calendas graecas?), but the Government seems to have done nothing to provide the necessary impetus to the preparatory work needed to put the Lisbon Treaty into practice.


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Ever closer union among the peoples of Europe?


The reporting was not that great to begin with, but it has steadily degenerated.

Is this really the view of our national political leaders (European Council, Council) on how to create an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen?

Dear Leaders, give the citizens of the European Union ownership or accept their rejection of your union.

If you want the European project and the Treaty of Lisbon to be accepted and even adopted with some enthusiasm by the citizens of the European Union, implementation and the new relations between the institutions need to be discussed openly and interactively.

Start now!


Ralf Grahn