Treaty of Lisbon Episode 3: Efficient and modern institutions

The Treaty of Lisbon will not change the institutional set up of the EU. What it will do is try to make it run that bit smoother. Which is no mean feet! I will look at each institution in turn.

European Parliament

This is the only directly elected body EU. The new treaty has boosted its powers as regards lawmaking, the EU budget and approval of international agreements, as I outlined in part 2. The composition of the parliament will also be changed – the number of MEPs shall be capped at 751 (750 plus the president of the parliament). Seats will be distributed among countries according to “degressive proportionality”, i.e. MEPs from more populous countries will each represent more people than those from smaller countries. No country may now have less than 6 or more than 96 MEPs. These will reduce Irelands share to 12. That means the Ireland – Dublin constituency will now only have 3 seats making it then same as Ireland – East, Ireland – South and Ireland – North West constituencies.

European Council

This body will become an official institution of the EU. It has the the role of driving EU policy-making. Although it will not gain any new powers, it will be headed by a newly created position of president. Elected by the European Council for 2½ years, the main job of the president will be to prepare the Council’s work, ensure its continuity and work to secure consensus among member countries. The president cannot simultaneously hold any elected position or office nationally. Tony Blair is said to be running for this poistion and Bertie Ahern has been mooted as a possible candidate.

The Council of the European Union
The Council represents the EU’s member governments. The main change brought by the Treaty of Lisbon concerns the decision‑making process. Firstly, the default voting method for the Council will now be qualified majority voting (QMV), except where the treaties require a different procedure (e.g. a unanimous vote). In practice, this means that when the new treaty enters into force, QMV will be extended to many new policy areas (e.g. immigration and culture).

In 2014, a new voting method will be introduced – double majority voting. To be passed by the Council, proposed EU laws will then require a majority not only of the EU’s member countries (55 %) but also of the EU population (65 %). This will reflect the legitimacy of the EU as a union of both peoples and nations. It will make EU lawmaking both more transparent and more effective. And it will be accompanied by a new mechanism (similar to the “Ioannina compromise”) enabling a small number of member governments (close to a blocking minority) to demonstrate their opposition to a decision. Where this mechanism is used, the Council will be required to do everything in its power to reach a satisfactory solution between the two parties, within a reasonable time period. This will make voting in council a real joy for mathamaticians. Countries such as the UK will have more votes (or weight) when they oppose something. This will be both a blessing and a curse. Though I think there are more advatages.

European Commission

Its main job is promoting the European public interest. The new treaty reduces the number of Commissioners – from 2014, only two thirds of member countries will have a Commissioner (e.g. with 27 countries, there would be 18 Commissioners), but the posts will rotate between all countries. The number of Commissioners can also be changed by the European Council (by unanimous vote).

In another major change, there will be a direct link between the results of the European elections and the choice of candidate for president of the Commission.

The president will also be stronger, as he/she will have the power to dismiss fellow Commissioners. Its about time this was brought in, presently the Parliament can only censure the entire commission (causing it normally to resign). This at least will mean commissioners will have to live up to standards.

EU high representative for foreign and security policy / Commission vice-president
The creation of this post is one of the major institutional innovations introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon. It should ensure consistency in the EU’s dealings with foreign countries and international bodies.

The high representative will have a dual role: representing the Council on common foreign and security policy matters and also being Commissioner for external relations. Conducting both common foreign policy and common defence policy, he/she will chair the periodic meetings of member countries’ foreign ministers (the “foreign affairs Council”). And he/she will represent the EU’s common foreign and security policy internationally, assisted by a new European external action service, composed of officials from the Council, Commission and national diplomatic services.

Havier Solana currently holds the role that this will replace. I think it is an excellent idea and especially as he will be on the Commission and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Council.

The other institutions
No significant changes have been made to the role or powers of the European Central Bank or the Court of Auditors. However, the new treaty broadens the scope of the European Court of Justice, especially as regards police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and changes some of its procedures. I am glad the ECJ is being extended it will give judical overview to EU actions.

Some other interesting research is out there on the treaty. I found these via Semper-Idem

UK House of Commons Library Research Paper 08/03 The Treaty of Lisbon: European Union
(Amendment) Bill (PDF)

UK House of Commons Library Research Paper 08/09 The Treaty of Lisbon: amendments to the Treaty on European Union. (PDF)

Any research links that I post will be neutral or from an institution such as a parliament. I will not put links to pro or anti arguements though I know I am areguing for the treaty, I would prefer if people read the information that is non-biased. Especially in Ireland as it willbe the subject of a referendum. If people have questions, leave a comment or email me at stephen (dot) spillane (at) gmail (dot) com. I will endeavour to get back to you.

The next post on the Treaty of Lisbon will look at the the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for and UCC Express.

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