Publications Notes de l'Ifri

Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty: Are we there yet?

Ratification du Traité de Lisbonne: final du marathon?

Are we there yet? Could the Lisbon Treaty be effective by the end of the year? Will the institutional reform that has been under way for 10 years finally be put in place?If so, would the new Commission nominated between December 2009 and January 2010 rule Europe on the basis of the new treaty? It is too early to answer these questions. Indeed they all depend on one single point: the choice that the Irish will make on 2 October when they vote for the second time on the Lisbon Treaty. A protocol has been added to the treaty to guarantee Ireland a few points that should facilitate their acceptance. For example, the protocol insists on the military neutrality of the country, the refusal of any additional fiscal harmonisation and the continued ban on abortions, which are strictly illegal in Ireland.Other problems have been recently solved: the Czech senate ratified the Lisbon Treaty on May 2009, even if the very populist and euro sceptic President Klaus, has yet not signed the document. In a similar way, the Polish president is waiting for the Irish result before confirming the ratification of the treaty. As far as Germany is concerned, the constitutional court has ruled that national legal changes are necessary before ratification. This issue will be discussed in the German Parliament in August and September.

Another factor of uncertainty regarding the success of the Lisbon Treaty is the British political situation. Indeed, the recent expenses scandal has weakened Gordon Brown and the Labour party, which was beaten by both the Conservatives and the UK Independence Party at the European elections. If the Tories are elected they have promised to cancel the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and hold a referendum.Thus, the Irish vote in October will be decisive for the future of the Lisbon Treaty: the Irish “yes” would most certainly foster a positive response from the other members. On the other hand, an Irish “no” would most certainly put an end to the Lisbon Treaty and could therefore open the Pandora"s box of European identity. Preoccupied by its own internal disagreements, the European Union would not hold its place on the world stage, as it is expected to do.

The first question, and the one we have been dealing with so far, is that of “the yes of the 27” or the “no of 2 or 3 or 4”. But beyond the different national positions on the Lisbon Treaty, the treaty in itself raises a few questions. The following points have been discussed by experts since 2007 and are being debated within the EU institutions since 2008:- The poor definitions of the roles of the three key characters in the Lisbon Treaty: the permanent president, the Commission"s president and the High Representative for the Common Foreign Security Policy.- The poor definition of and lack of clear limits between the roles of the permanent president and the rotation presidency. - The poor definition of the roles of the future diplomatic service of the EU.- The lack of a clear strategy to achieve reducing the number of commissioners to 2/3 of their current number by 2014, according to a rotation principle, as the Lisbon treaty proclaims. The rotation principle has not been clearly defined and has yet to be approved unanimously by the council.- The Swedish presidency will have a crucial role to play in settling these complicated issues. One step at a time though. Ireland has first to vote on the Treaty.

Positive Irish pollsLast June Irish polls showed that the majority of the population thinks favourably of the Lisbon Treaty. According to an Irish Times/TNS poll, 54 % of the Irish would vote “yes” this time round. Moreover, this shows an upward trend as it is 2% higher than in May. The promoters of the “no” vote are losing ground, scoring only 28%. The Icelandic bankruptcy is party responsible for this change in public opinion, since it made Ireland realise, by comparison, the advantages to be gained from being a member of the European Union. However, the “yes” vote will only triumph if the Irish concentrate on European issues rather than on the unpopular national government.
Brief overview of the Lisbon TreatyIt was the Laeken summit in 2001 that launched the debate on the essential institutional reforms that the European Union would need to put in place to allow for a smooth 2004 enlargement. Although it has been seven years since the process was started, not much has been achieved. The first attempt was the constitutional treaty that both France and the Netherlands rejected in 2005. The second attempt was the Lisbon Treaty that was signed on 13 December 2007. This treaty did not replace previous treaties but rather amended them. Apart from the fact that all the allusions to a constitution had been removed, Lisbon introduced three main changes. First it brought more visibility to the European Union through a semi permanent president and a High Representative for Common and Foreign Policy. Secondly the Lisbon treaty would ensure smoother operation of the European Union by reducing the number of commissioners and Members of European Parliament. Last but not least, on the procedural front, the double majority qualified vote would be reinforced, as opposed to the unanimous vote, for 21 additional areas. For example, this measure applies to judicial and police cooperation but not to taxation or foreign policy. Although it is obvious that the Lisbon Treaty does represent a step forward compared to Nice, it contains a few discrepancies: what will the role of the permanent president be in relation to the rotating presidency of the European council, to quote only one of the contradictions that need to be solved as soon as possible.

Ratification du Traité de Lisbonne: final du marathon?