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Debate: EU constitution reform treaty (Lisbon Treaty)

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Is the EU Constitution reform treaty a good idea?

Background and context

The Treaty of Lisbon (also known as the Reform Treaty) is a treaty designed to streamline the workings of the European Union (EU) with amendments to the Treaty on European Union (TEU, Maastricht) and the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC, Rome), the latter being renamed Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in the process.
The stated aim of the treaty is "to complete the process started by the Treaty of Amsterdam and by the Treaty of Nice with a view to enhancing the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the Union and to improving the coherence of its action". Prominent changes introduced with the Treaty of Lisbon include more qualified majority voting in the EU Council, increased involvement of the European Parliament in the legislative process through extended codecision with the EU Council, reduction of the number of Commissioners from 27 to 18, eliminating the pillar system, and the creation of a President of the European Council and a High Representative for Foreign Affairs to present a united position on EU policies (see more below). If ratified, the Treaty of Lisbon would also make the Charter of Fundamental Rights (human rights provisions) legally binding. The negotiations on modifying the EU institutions began in 2001, first resulting in the European Constitution, which failed due to rejection in two referendums. The Treaty of Lisbon was signed on 13 December 2007 in Lisbon (as Portugal held the EU Council's Presidency at the time), and was planned to have been ratified in all member states by the end of 2008, so it could come into force before the 2009 European elections. However, the rejection of the Treaty on 12 June 2008 by the Irish electorate has created uncertainty in this regard.

For further background, see Wikipedia's article on the Treaty of Lisbon.

Contents

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Another Constitution? Is the Lisbon Treaty just another EU Constitution?

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Yes

The constitution attempted to replace all earlier EU treaties and start afresh, whereas the new treaty amends the Treaty on the European Union (Maastricht) and the Treaty Establishing the European Community (Rome).
It also drops all reference to the symbols of the EU - the flag, the anthem and the motto - though these will continue to exist."


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No

German Chancellor Angela Merkel German Chancellor said about the Lisbon Treaty, "The substance of the constitution is preserved. That is a fact."[1]
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Centralization/sovereignty: Is greater centralization a good thing?

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Yes


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No

  • Lisbon Treaty strips countries of the right to decide values The cost of centralization is mainly that uniform policies are imposed on heterogeneous populations. This means that policies developed in EU institutions are imposed on European countries and populations that may completely oppose those policies.
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Updates: Does Lisbon appropriately modernize past EU treaties?

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Yes

  • Lisbon Treaty modernizes EU governance and democratic processes "Treaty of Lisbon. Taking Europe into the 21st century". Europa.eu. - "Taking Europe into the 21st century. The Treaty signed by the Heads of State or Government of the 27 Member States in Lisbon on 13 December 2007 will provide the EU with modern institutions and optimised working methods to tackle both efficiently and effectively today's challenges in today's world. In a rapidly changing world, Europeans look to the EU to address issues such as globalisation, climatic and demographic changes, security and energy. The Treaty of Lisbon will reinforce democracy in the EU and its capacity to promote the interests of its citizens on a day-to-day basis."
  • Lisbon Treaty recognizes right of states to withdraw from EU.


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No

Jean-Claude Juncker, 23 June 2007 - "The constitutional treaty was an easily understandable treaty. This is a simplified treaty which is very complicated."
Graham Watson, MEP and leader of the ALDE group, 27 June 2007 - "The real casualty was idealism: losing the symbols of our Union and replacing the relative simplicity of the Constitutional Treaty with bureaucratic opaqueness is a pity. As a result, your new Amending Treaty reads like the instructions for building a Japanese pagoda translated into English by the Chinese middle-man."


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Democracy: will Lisbon improve the democratic practices of EU?

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Yes

  • The Lisbon Treaty generally makes the EU more democratic "Treaty of Lisbon. Questions and Answers". Europea.eu - "Does the Treaty of Lisbon make the decision-making process more democratic? Yes. The Treaty of Lisbon will increase the number of policy areas where the directly elected European Parliament has to approve EU legislation together with the Council comprised of national Ministers (the “co-decision” procedure). The Treaty of Lisbon strengthens the democratic control of the European Union with a stronger role for both the European Parliament and national parliaments. It will establish a clearer distribution of powers between the Union and the Member States, which will make it easier for the citizens to understand 'who does what'."
  • Lisbon Treaty responds to concerns raised by EU citizens "Treaty of Lisbon. Questions and Answers". Europea.eu - "The Treaty of Lisbon responds to concerns raised by European citizens. For example, the political commitment to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and energy policy is fully reflected in the Treaty. For the first time, the treaties will contain a section on energy which assigns to Union policy in this sector the objectives of ensuring the proper functioning of the energy market, in particular energy supply and the promotion of energy efficiency and energy saving, and the development of new and renewable forms of energy."
  • Lisbon Treaty improves transparency in the EU.
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No

  • Under Lisbon Treaty, European Commission is not elected by the people. The European Commission is responsible for proposing new legislation, but its commissioners will not be elected by Europeans. This is an unrepresentative form of governance.


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Efficiency: Will the Lisbon Treaty improve the efficiency of EU decision-making?

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Yes

Effective and efficient decision-making: qualified majority voting in the Council will be extended to new policy areas to make decision-making faster and more efficient. From 2014 on, the calculation of qualified majority will be based on the double majority of Member States and people, thus representing the dual legitimacy of the Union.A double majority will be achieved when a decision is taken by 55% of the Member States representing at least 65% of the Union’s population.
  • Lisbon creates co-decision-making in European Parliament and Council.


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No

  • The EU is streamlined and working well; no need for Lisbon. The EU is operating as well as it can, in the context of it being a union of sovereign nations with legitimate, independent interests. Any further "streamlining" risks stepping beyond these legitimate constraints.
Although the Lisbon Treaty is being sold as a simple reform measure, it actually goes far beyond that.
The Irish Government have claimed that the purpose of this Treaty is to streamline the legislative process in the European institutions - but experts say it doesn’t need streamlining!
A recent report by Professor Helen Wallace of the London School of Economics has found that legislation has actually progressed more swiftly since 2004 when ten new member states joined the EU.
Earlier this year, a report by the Science-Po University in Paris showed that new rules are now being adopted 25% faster than prior to enlargement and that the Nice Treaty voting arrangements generally seem to be working well.
The EU is in need of many reforms – but it needs to be made more democratic. It certainly shouldn’t be given a Treaty that allows it to seize more power at the expense of Irish sovereignty and democracy."


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Foreign policy: Will the Lisbon Treaty improve the EU's foreign policy?

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Yes

No. The European Union is asked to act when a coherent voice is needed on the international stage. A range of foreign policy issues are best addressed by the Member States of the European Union acting together.
The post of High Representative does not create new powers but streamlines EU external action avoiding duplication and confusion. He or she will act in foreign policy matters on the basis of decisions taken unanimously by the EU 27. He or she will complement not replace the foreign policy or diplomatic efforts of Member States."
Yes, this should be one of its major achievements. The Treaty of Lisbon sets out common principles and objectives for the Union’s external action: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity."
  • Lisbon Treaty gives greater coherence to EU foreign affairs.


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No

  • Lisbon Treaty threatens Anglo-American and transatlantic relations Sally McNamara. "The EU Reform Treaty: A Threat to the Transatlantic Alliance". Heritage Foundation. February 20, 2008 - "For both sides of the Atlantic, the Lisbon Treaty is bad news. The treaty poses a massive threat to the future of the Anglo-American Special Relationship as well as the broader transatlantic alliance. It will further entrench Europe's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), both major threats to the future of NATO, and will seriously impair the ability of America's allies in Europe to stand alongside the United States where and when they choose to do so. [...] An America without Britain alongside it would be far more isolated and friendless and significantly less able to project power on the world stage. For Washington, there is no real alternative to the Special Relationship. Its collapse would be damaging to America's standing as a global power and would significantly weaken her leadership of the war against Islamist terrorism."
Like the rejected constitution, the new Reform Treaty is also a blueprint for a European superstate dreamt up by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. This time around, however, most of Europe doesn't get to vote, as democracy is too dangerous a concept for the architects of this grand vision of an EU superpower."


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Internal security: Will Lisbon improve EU internal security?

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Yes

  • Lisbon Treaty strengthens the EU's ability to secure Europe "Treaty of Lisbon. The Treaty at a glance". Europa. - "Improving the life of Europeans: the Treaty of Lisbon improves the EU's ability to act in several policy areas of major priority for today's Union and its citizens. This is the case in particular for the policy areas of freedom, security and justice, such as combating terrorism or tackling crime. It also concerns to some extent other areas including energy policy, public health, civil protection, climate change, services of general interest, research, space, territorial cohesion, commercial policy, humanitarian aid, sport, tourism and administrative cooperation."


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No

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Permanent President of the European Council: Is this an important feature of Lisbon?

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Yes

  • European Council presidency is streamlined under Lisbon "Treaty of Lisbon. The Treaty at a glance". Europa. - "A more stable and streamlined institutional framework: the Treaty of Lisbon creates the function of President of the European Council elected for two and a half years, introduces a direct link between the election of the Commission President and the results of the European elections, provides for new arrangements for the future composition of the European Parliament and for a smaller Commission, and includes clearer rules on enhanced cooperation and financial provisions."


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No

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Commissioners: Is it sensible to reduce the number of commissioners?

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Yes


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No

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Taxes: What would the Lisbon Treaty do to taxes?

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Yes

Not at all. The Treaty of Lisbon allows the EU to maintain and develop further the social achievements in full respect of national prerogatives.
A highly competitive social market economy, full employment and social progress are included amongst the Union’s objectives. The coordination of Member States’ economic policies and employment policies is within the sphere of competence of the Union, which allows for the possible coordination of Member States’ social policies."


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No

  • The Lisbon Treaty will result in taxation without representation.


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Immigration: Would Lisbon increase immigration and is this a good thing?

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Yes

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No


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Economics: Will the Lisbon Treaty be economically beneficial?

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Yes


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No

  • Lisbon Treaty prevents states from attracting companies with low taxes. Ireland is a good example of a state that protested the Lisbon Treaty on the basis that it would constrain its ability to use its low taxes to attract foreign companies to do business in Ireland. This is a concern in all states that use their lower taxes and other incentives to attract foreign companies.


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Environment: Does Lisbon strengthen the EU on the environment?

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Yes

  • Lisbon better reinforces EU sustainable development - "Treaty of Lisbon. Questions and Answers". Europea.eu - "Does the Treaty of Lisbon preserve what the EU has achieved for the environment? What about climate change? Yes, entirely. The Treaty of Lisbon states that one of the Union’s objectives is to work for the sustainable development of Europe based, in particular, on a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. Although the idea of sustainable development was included in the existing treaties, the Treaty of Lisbon will reinforce and better define this objective. Sustainable development is also affirmed as one of the fundamental objectives of the Union in its relations with the wider world."



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No

  • The Lisbon Treaty pays too little attention to climate change "An alternative guide to the Lisbon Treaty". Sinn Fein, Liberal Irish political party. - "Climate Change The Irish government has made great play of its “success” in having climate change introduced into the Treaty. However, this “addition” amounts to a mere 6 words that do not empower the EU to do anything it could not currently do under existing Treaty provisions. The relevant article states, “promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, and in particular combating climate change.” Indeed the current EU Climate Change package is based on the existing provisions. Considering the urgency of the climate change crisis, the fact the Irish government could only secure these six words, and nothing additional to the existing provisions, is an indication of the lack of seriousness in regard to this issue."


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Smaller states: Will Lisbon benefit or hurt small countries?

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Yes

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No

  • Lisbon Treaty will reduce power of small countries "The Case for a No Vote". Lisbon Treaty Information Campaign - "Already two-thirds of our laws are made in Brussels. But Lisbon transfers more power from you – the Irish voter – to the EU. We lose our EU Commissioner and removes decision -making from the Dáil in 32 areas, giving you less power [...] If the Lisbon Treaty is passed our voting weight in the EU Council of Ministers will be slashed by 60%. Germany’s power and influence, on the other hand, will increase by 100%. Lisbon means our voice is weaker in the EU and we lose the power to be heard [...] Lisbon is a power-grab by the big EU states, whose larger populations would give them the biggest say in deciding EU laws. It’s a bad deal for Ireland."


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Alternatives: Are there any alternatives to the Lisbon Treaty?

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Yes


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No

Click on the pencil icon and research and write arguments here


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Tactics: Are the tactics used by the various camps appropriate?

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Yes


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No

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Pro/con resources

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Yes

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No


See also

External links and resources

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