Tuesday 3 June 2008

Lisbon mini treaty?

I have compared the existing treaties of the European Union with the draft Constitution and the Constitutional Treaty as well as with the Treaty of Lisbon, working Article by Article from the beginning of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) until Article 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Time for an interim assessment, I would say.


The differences between the stages are small, when we look at the treaties as a whole, although each treaty had its own terminology and numbering. Even if the end result of the IGC 2007, the size of the Treaty of Lisbon, was far from the ‘mini treaty’ first envisaged by the future French president Nicolas Sarkozy, the lawyers coordinated by the Council Secretariat did diminish the bulk of the text by two editorial choices.

The use of horizontal amendments achieved the goal of a consistent terminology throughout the amending treaties, with minimal use of space. Hundreds of small and materially insignificant changes were, in fact, deferred until the appearance of the consolidated versions of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The other editorial choice in the ‘mini treaty’ spirit was to bypass (the draft Constitution and) the Constitutional Treaty, when the later wording was different (and possibly better), but the more recent text did not represent an ‘innovation’, in other words, no substantive change. In these cases, the drafters let the current provision lie (with one or more probable horizontal changes).

In spite of this, the formal page count or word count of the Treaty of Lisbon is surprisingly high.


But word counts say very little about the substance, when we consider that the significant changes are, in the end, not far removed from the vision of an institutionally focused ‘mini treaty’.

They represent a compromise view on how to reform the core institutions, very little expanded areas of EU action, but a substantial amount of more efficient decision-making within the Council (in part from 2014 or 2017) and democratic scrutiny by the European Parliament (and the national parliaments).

I have to admit that the more I study the subject, the paler the result of a decade of treaty reform appears.

Ralf Grahn

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