Saturday, 3 October 2009

Openness: First test for the Lisbon Treaty

If the Irish have voted Yes in the yesterday’s Lisbon 2009 referendum, as pundits are suggesting, the EU Treaty of Lisbon will be fully legitimate: approved in all 27 member states of the European Union (despite the need for formal ratification by Polish President Lech Kaczynski and a decision by the Czech Constitutional Court before the signature of President Vaclav Klaus).

The positive outcome in Ireland would require the member states to start open preparations for the Lisbon Treaty. The (short) delay ahead of entry into force can be put to good practice.



The European Union needs a new Commission (in principle from 1 November 2009). Under the Lisbon Treaty rules, each member state would suggest one of its nationals to become a member of the Commission.

The member states, José Manuel Barroso as President-elect and the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union should inform the public about the suggestions and the proposal ahead of the hearings and the vote by the European Parliament.


President of the European Council

The Lisbon Treaty would create a new chair for the summits, the President of the European Council, for a renewable term of two and a half years.

The new President is ‘elected’ by the European Council by a qualified majority.

Open procedure

Important decisions are to be taken “as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen”. The Swedish Council Presidency has a unique opportunity to establish more open and transparent procedures.

Sweden should immediately call for open nominations and allow for free public discussion about the merits of the candidates and allow for media debates between the nominees.

The leaders of the EU member states would do well to listen to the discussion, before they make their decision.

The tasks and the perks of the new chair need to be hammered out. Chairing and facilitating four annual meetings is the minimum, but how much more do the member states want.

The proposals should be made public well before the decisions are made. Only then do we know how much or how little this chairperson is the “EU President” the media have created.


High Representative/Vice-President

The Swedish Council Presidency and the member states need to apply the same open nominations and procedures to the other new top job, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, destined to become one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission and to chair the Foreign Affairs Council.


Lisbon Treaty implementation

The launch of the European External Action Service is one of the high profile implementation issues of the Lisbon Treaty, but many other decisions need to be taken, down to nitty-gritty details of Rules of Procedure.

The Swedish Presidency has a unique opportunity to show that the Council is willing to usher in a new era with the amending Lisbon Treaty: more democratic, transparent, efficient and modern, as Swedish EU Minister Cecilia Malmström said ahead of the Irish referendum.

How the EU member states put the new rules into practice becomes the first test of the Lisbon Treaty.

Fredrik Reinfeldt, Carl Bildt and Cecilia Malmström should not flunk that test.

Ralf Grahn