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Lisbon Treaty: main institutional changes

(BRUSSELS2) This Treaty introduces fundamental changes in institutional matters. We talked about simplification. It would be more accurate to speak of “refinement”. The European Union is becoming a little more adult, enriching itself with new attributes, new skills... while respecting those of the Member States and trying to establish a new link with citizens.

1) The European Council, which was previously only a “club” bringing together heads of state and/or government, becomes an institution in its own right, chaired permanently by a president (elected by his peers for 2 and a half years, mandate renewable once).

2) The EU High Representative for foreign policy sees its role strengthened. He becomes vice-president of the Commission and will now chair the councils of foreign ministers. It has a diplomatic and security service made up of the various existing services at European level (whether the Commission or the Council, whether civil or military) reinforced by experts from the Member States. Ultimately, he will have control over all external EU delegations as well as special envoys and civilian or military missions of the PeSDC. NB: Basically, in a national government he combines the roles of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense, while having the financial and legal means.

3) to presidency of the Council, of the other councils of ministers (general affairs, economic and financial affairs, etc.) continues to be exercised in turn by each Member State which thus remains free to determine their priorities. The presidency “rotates” every six months. But to make the work easier, the presidencies are grouped by group of three countries – over 18 months (therefore nothing prevents them from distributing the presidencies of the councils for 18 months).

4) to European Commission could see the number of its commissioners reduced from 2014. This provision was however suspended at the request of Ireland, each State keen to keep “its” commissioner. And this modification of the Lisbon Treaty should be formalized in a future Treaty.

5) The European Parliament sees its role strengthened, particularly in the areas of Agriculture, Justice and Home Affairs.

6) Two new actors are appearing in the “institutional game”. National parliaments will have the possibility of suspending a legislative procedure which they consider to contravene the principle of subsidiarity. The right of popular initiative is partly recognized: one million Europeans in a majority of Member States will be able to ask the European Commission to take a legislative initiative (NB: it can refuse but justify it).

7) The European Union will have some new skills in matters of civil protection, sport, public health (on epidemics only).

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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