A Brief Guide To The EU's Lisbon Treaty

The Treaty of Lisbon is set to finally go into force on December 1. Answers some of the most pertinent questions about the landmark European reform document.

What is the Treaty of Lisbon?

After the failure of its forerunner, the European Constitution, which was rejected in 2005 by voters in France and the Netherlands, the Treaty of Lisbon, also called the European reform treaty, was conceived as an alternative series of amendments to two existing EU treaties, the Treaty on the European Union (Maastricht) and the Treaty Establishing the European Community (Rome).

The Treaty of Lisbon, which was approved by EU leaders at an EU summit in the Portuguese capital in December 2007, is a blueprint for running the 27-member European Union more efficiently. It has been ratified by each of the bloc's members.
What would the Treaty of Lisbon do?

The document is meant to change the EU in the following ways:

•    It creates the role of European president.

This is one of the most controversial proposals as the idea was initially opposed by smaller EU nations but was forced through by the larger member states. The president would serve a two-and-a-half-year term, replacing the current system of a rotating six-month presidency, and will not be allowed to serve more than two terms.

•    It creates the role of an EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.

Essentially the EU's foreign minister, this role combines the posts of current foreign affairs chief Javier Solana and External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and will be the bloc's point person for world affairs.

•    It reduces the size of the EU's executive body, the European Commission.

The EU Commission would be reduced so that there will be fewer commissioners than member states by 2014, with only two-thirds of countries supplying a commissioner on a rotational basis. Currently each member state has a commissioner.

•    It redistributes voting weights among member states.

The treaty intends to introduce majority voting, which will allow votes to be carried on a 55-percent majority as long as that majority also represent 65 percent of the European population. This would be phased in between 2014 and 2017.

•    It gives new powers to the European Commission, European Parliament and European Court of Justice, in areas such as justice and domestic affairs.

•    It removes embers' rights to veto legislation in a number of areas.
How smooth was the ratification process?

Not-everyone-is-a-fanEvery country except Ireland left ratification of the treaty to their parliaments. The Irish rejected it in a first referendum in 2008, but voted "yes" the second time around, in early October 2009.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus, one of Europe's most vocal opponent's of the legislation, became the last EU leader to sign the landmark EU document into law in early November, after both the lower and upper houses of parliament in Prague had already approved the treaty.