Saturday, 19 September 2009

EU Lisbon Treaty: Rocky road to Rome

The delayed entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon causes the European Union a number of problems.

José Manuel Barroso was nominated by the heads of state or government of the EU member states, and the nomination was approved by the European Parliament in accordance with the Treaty of Nice (Article 214(2) TEC), although it is possible that the new President of the Commission and his Commission are going to serve under the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The next step is to appoint the members of the Commission, which should take over on 1 November 2009 (2003 Accession Treaty), but we don’t even know the future size of the Commission: Nice or Lisbon?

Will the old and weary Commission be conscripted for an indefinite period of service, until the legal base for the new one is sorted out? Meaningful legislative activity ended last spring, well before the European Parliament elections…

Ahead of the Irish Lisbon Treaty referendum on 2 October 2009, the member states have kept the lid on public discussion about the decisions to take if the amending treaty enters into force.

The most obvious ones are the elections of the President of the European Council and the “double-hatted” High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Given the uncertain situation, the member states have not presented proposals concerning the rights and obligations of the new office-holders to the public.

The discussions about candidates are based on rumour and speculation, instead of open discussion about merits.

The lack of public discussion affects the launch of the European External Action Service as well, an important instrument for more coherent European diplomatic action.

The same goes for the shift from the current system of Council Presidencies to the Lisbon order with permanent chairs for the European Council and the Foreign Affairs Council. If, when and how?

The EU institutions need to revise their Rules of Procedure and to make a number of implementing decisions, if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, but even the generally open Swedish Council Presidency has avoided public discussion on these matters. (Only the European Parliament has approved new provisions to its Rules of Procedure, contingent on the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, but new agreements are needed between the institutions.)

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Despite agreement by 27 national governments and approval by 26 national parliaments, until all the ratification instruments have been deposited in Rome, the European Union will continue to act as a zombie, and European citizens will be kept in the dark.

All eyes are on the Irish voters to break the deadlock on 2 October 2009.


Ralf Grahn