If the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, it will affect the size of the Commission. But Czech President Vaclav Klaus is wrong about the need for renewed ratification.
Let us start with the Treaty of Lisbon, intended to streamline the institutions of the European Union.
Originally, one of the intended Lisbon Treaty reforms was to shrink the Commission after 1 November 2014. Article 17(4) and (5) of the amended Treaty on European Union states (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/25):
Article 17(4) and (5) TEU
4. The Commission appointed between the date of entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and 31 October 2014, shall consist of one national of each Member State, including its President and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who shall be one of its Vice-Presidents.
5. As from 1 November 2014, the Commission shall consist of a number of members, including its President and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, corresponding to two thirds of the number of Member States, unless the European Council, acting unanimously, decides to alter this number.
The members of the Commission shall be chosen from among the nationals of the Member States on the basis of a system of strictly equal rotation between the Member States, reflecting the demographic and geographical range of all the Member States. This system shall be established unanimously by the European Council in accordance with Article 244 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
December 2008 European Council
Point 2 of the Presidency Conclusions of the European Council 11 to 12 December 2008 (Council document 17271/1/08 REV 1 CONCL 5) contains a political decision to scrap the reform, following the negative outcome of the Irish referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon:
2. On the composition of the Commission, the European Council recalls that the Treaties currently in force require that the number of Commissioners be reduced in 2009. The European Council agrees that provided the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, a decision will be taken, in accordance with the necessary legal procedures, to the effect that the Commission shall continue to include one national of each Member State.
June 2009 European Council
Under the heading I. Institutional issues, Ireland and the Treaty of Lisbon, the Presidency Conclusions of the European Council 18 to 19 June 2009 reiterate the undertaking of the heads of state or government (Council document 11225/09 CONCL 2):
2. Having carefully noted the concerns of the Irish people as set out by the Taoiseach, the European Council, at its meeting of 11-12 December 2008, agreed that, provided the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, a decision would be taken, in accordance with the necessary legal procedures, to the effect that the Commission shall continue to include one national of each Member State.
President Vaclav Klaus
Reuters quotes the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, demanding renewed approval of the Lisbon Treaty by the Czech Parliament: Czechs concerned about changes to Lisbon treaty (20 June 2009):
"Although it is written in the treaty that not all countries ... will have their own commissioner, now suddenly it is promised that they will," news Web site novinky.cz quoted Klaus as saying.
"Every normal human being, a first form pupil, would know that it is a change and that somebody is promising it. So it is a change," he said.
Klaus, a staunch opponent of the EU charter, said earlier this week the guarantees would need to win parliamentary approval in the Czech Republic to comply with the constitution.
Within the Lisbon Treaty
Klaus is right about the original intention with the Lisbon Treaty, to reduce the size of the Commission (which has swollen following enlargement).
But Klaus “forgot” to mention the proviso “unless the European Council, acting unanimously, decides to alter this number”.
This is in effect, what two unanimous European Council meetings have promised to do, if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force. The decision is compatible with the Treaty of Lisbon, and it is within the powers of the European Council. The formal decision can be taken when the Lisbon Treaty is in force. (Under the Treaty of Nice, the Commission has to be reduced this autumn.)
Klaus is not only wrongheaded – he is plain wrong.