European Union gets a President -- Lisbon Treaty takes effect

Sim

Registered Member
#1
Finally, the Lisbon Treaty takes effect in the European Union, after Ireland voted with "yes" in a referendum in early October.

With the Treaty, the EU now gets two new offices: A permanent President of the European Council (the highest legislative body of the EU) who is elected for 2.5 years, and a High Representant for Foreign Policy.

In the past, the presidency of the EU council had been rotating every 6 moths between the respective heads of state of the member states. The new permanent President is supposed to provide more stability and long-term planning.

Also, the process of ratification has been streamlined, the veto power of single member countries has been reduced, and there now is the possibility for EU-wide referendum petitions. The competence of the EU Parliament has been strengthened.

With the Lisbon Treaty, there comes a charta of universal human and civil rights binding for the EU member states, and for the first time, there is a withdrawal clause that allows single member states to leave the EU again, if they wish so.

Here an article on the Treaty by Jerzy Buzek, President of the EU Parliament and former Prime Minister of Poland:

"Historic" is a word often over-used. Yet, Dec. 1, 2009, will go down in the history of the European Union as the day the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, ending nearly a decade of internal discussions.

The treaty represents an era of increased democracy in the European Union and gives a huge boost to the powers of the European Parliament. There is almost a doubling of the legislative and budgetary powers of the parliament. The European Parliament will also jointly decide with national ministers in the important spheres of justice and home affairs, such as immigration and asylum including conditions for the reception of applicants, and international trade policy. (...)

This increase in parliamentary powers builds on the fact that the parliament already enjoys joint-decision making with the Council of Ministers in many existing fields -- notably the EU's single market, as well as policy on environment, transport, employment and development.

The treaty changes for the better the way our continent is governed, enhancing the influence of citizens and national parliaments on the way the EU operates. It gives Europeans a more direct say in decisions made in the EU. The treaty creates the 'European citizens' initiative,' which enables one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of member states to call directly on the European Commission to bring forward a legislative proposal in any area of EU competence. This sort of direct participation should lead to greater engagement with the increasingly influential European institutions.

The EU is a Europe based on common values, notably freedom and solidarity. The treaty promotes the Union's values, introducing the Charter of Fundamental Rights into European primary law, ensuring better protection of European citizens. The charter is a guarantee that Union institutions and law cannot violate basic standards of human rights -- European institutions will have to respect them. The charter has the European Union's full support, even though the United Kingdom, Poland and the Czech Republic have all negotiated opt-outs, thus demonstrating the EU's ability to apply flexible arrangements in respect to the sensitivities of individual member states.

High Level of Scrutiny

Our European Union, of almost 500 million people, will have an improved system of democratic accountability. Any legislation will be subject to the prior scrutiny of national parliaments and then the double approval of the Council of Ministers, composed of ministers accountable to those very same national parliaments, and the European Parliament. All of whom are directly elected by citizens to represent them at the European level. (...)

The Lisbon Treaty enables Europe to take its responsibilities in the world more seriously. The EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy (and I am happy it is a woman, as I had called for), served by a newly developed European External Action Service, will provide a clear voice for the EU on a global level. Baroness Cathy Ashton as vice-president of the European Commission will face a hearing in the European Parliament during the second week of January to assess her suitability for her new post. I am convinced that this new voice, supported by a strong European External Action Service together with European expertise in intergovernmental diplomacy, can offer a step change in the effectiveness of our foreign policy. With a growing number of EU crisis management missions around the world, the European Parliament will hold Baroness Ashton to account, ensuring transparency and accountability, as it is our duty to do. (...)

The Lisbon Treaty is not an end in itself, nor is it perfect. It is an improved set of rules to develop EU policy. Twenty years after the beginnings of the democratic changes in Central and Eastern Europe, and as the first President of the European Parliament from this part of our continent, I am proud to say that we now have a set of democratic and efficient rules capable of providing answers for 500 million people in 27 (possibly soon to be 28 or 29) member states.
link



Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy now becomes the first permanent EU Council President for the next 2.5 years.


British politician Catherine Ashton becomes High Representant for Foreign Policy, the EU's "foreign minister" (which is not called that way because the British didn't want to evoke the impression the EU becomes a super-state).




The EU now encompasses 27 member states on the European continent, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus, and a population of almost 500 million people. Additional countries may join the EU within the next few years, as for example Iceland and Croatia. An EU membership of Turkey, which officially has the status of a membership candidate, is still controversially debated.
 

ysabel

/ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5
#2
I thought someone more high profile would get the position. Wasn't Tony Blair being eyed for at least the Foreign Policy one? On the other hand, maybe relatively unknowns are better because they don't have previous "damaged" reputations or biased attached to them and they can reach out to more people.
 

Bjarki

Registered Member
#3
I thought someone more high profile would get the position. Wasn't Tony Blair being eyed for at least the Foreign Policy one? On the other hand, maybe relatively unknowns are better because they don't have previous "damaged" reputations or biased attached to them and they can reach out to more people.
I think Blair is indeed too controversial with the whole war on terror-thing. I suppose it's also best to appoint someone from a small member state. I don't think the French would have liked a German or British pm and vice versa.

I remain skeptical about this. It seems like a stepping stone to an ever increasing power of the EU in an age in which the people are already feeling a huge distance between their interests and that of the governing elites. Furthermore, the interests of seperate nations are so far apart that any controversial law is gonna spark great protests. Like for example, the ban on crucifixes in public buildings is doing in Italy right now.

I also fear the foreign policies of the EU. A powerful and mighty EU has a lot more chance of getting caught up in international conflicts than an independent, small and insignificant country in the peaceful heartland of Europe. :stare:
 

Sim

Registered Member
#4
I think Blair is indeed too controversial with the whole war on terror-thing. I suppose it's also best to appoint someone from a small member state. I don't think the French would have liked a German or British pm and vice versa.
Agreed. Someone high profile brings a lot of baggage with him ... and who could have been a potential candidate? Tony Blair -- controversial because of the war on terror and Iraq. Gerhard Schröder -- because of his "no" to Iraq, and opposed by the new German government. Jacques Chirac -- hate figure among the new members in central-eastern Europe because of his "old Europe-arrogance". Romano Prodi -- was head of the Commission already.

So it all boils down to a candidate from a smaller member state. This also decreases the fear on the side of smaller states to be dominated by the large states.

I remain skeptical about this. It seems like a stepping stone to an ever increasing power of the EU in an age in which the people are already feeling a huge distance between their interests and that of the governing elites.
I think you overestimate this distrust against "the elites". Fortunately, Wilders doesn't speak on behalt of "the" Dutch, neither does Le Pen speak on behalf of "the" French.

It's true the EU is lacking more democratic legitimation -- but for some reason, those who are the strongest opponents of more transparency and democracy in the EU are the very same people who keep lamenting about "losing national identity", the lack of democracy in the EU and the EU in general (and, of course, rant against Muslims, foreigners and anything foreign). Nationalists and xenophobes of all kind, who insist on "national sovereignty" and thus block any attempt for more democracy, because it allegedly "decreases" this "national sovereignty".

And then, the EU has become a bit more open and democratic with this new treaty. Referendum petitions are possible now, and the EU Parliament gets more competence.

And despite all its flaws, we shouldn't forget where we'd be without the EU. Without an integrated market, we'd not just have to pay costums and exchange money for any transnational transaction and get a VISA for travelling into the neighbor country -- we'd soon have a situation like in the 19th century again, with a fragile "balance of power" and alliances that may very well lead to a new major war on European soil (that NATO is not sufficient to bind Europe together without a major common enemy was more than obvious in case of Iraq). Transition democracies in central eastern Europe would have likely fallen apart again, becoming failing states or autocrat regimes, like in Belarus or Caucasia, and a constant poverty gap between West and East. The larger players would have to meddle anyway and fill these power vaccuums, but without well defined rules and without an order where even smaller states have a fair voice -- Europe would fall apart into French, German, Russian zones of influence and satellites, who may very well get in armed conflict on the long run.

This sounds dramatic, but I don't think it's an exaggeration in the slightest. The only thing that stands between peace and prosperity on one side, and chaos, war and poverty on the other, is the EU.

So I don't see any reasonable alternative to the EU -- any kind of improvement should be achieved within the frame of the existing EU, not by abandoning it.

Furthermore, the interests of seperate nations are so far apart that any controversial law is gonna spark great protests. Like for example, the ban on crucifixes in public buildings is doing in Italy right now.
One proposal in the Lisbon Treaty is the principle of subsidiarity: Culture remains in the power of the member states and will not be directed from Brussels, just like the EU is only supposed to direct where it can direct more efficiently than teh national governments. I don't think the EU would ever meddle into such a question, like crucifixes in schools.

I also fear the foreign policies of the EU. A powerful and mighty EU has a lot more chance of getting caught up in international conflicts than an independent, small and insignificant country in the peaceful heartland of Europe. :stare:
You can see it from the other side: The EU can take responsibility to prevent chaos in front of its door, like Yugoslavia. When we allow local conflicts to explode, this is not beneficial for the interests of each single member state -- nobody wants to deal with waves of asylum seekers, damaged economic relations and chaos. And only when we combine our power, we can make a difference. If we don't get our act together, we're just receiving orders from the US anyway and aren't more than satellites.
 
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Bananas

Endangered Species
#5
ysabel; said:
Wasn't Tony Blair being eyed for at least the Foreign Policy one?
Blair was going for the President job. As far as I can work out the reason he did not get it was more to do with both France and Germany's current governments wanting a more right wing person for the job. As both seats can not be occupied by a single party within the EU parliament, the Presidency was always going to fall to the European Peoples Party, leaving the Progressive Socialists with the Foreign Minister role. As the UK falls in the latter* it really had to compromise between a battle geting Blair into a EPP dominated parliament or be content with an almost guaranteed British foreign minister with Ashton.

*its almost guaranteed that the Conservatives will be in power in the UK come next June so the British element of the S&D had to cease the oppurtunity and be content with whatever authority they can.

Bjarki; said:
I think Blair is indeed too controversial with the whole war on terror-thing. I suppose it's also best to appoint someone from a small member state. I don't think the French would have liked a German or British pm and vice versa.
Credit to Blair though he is one of the best orrators in the world and if the EU ever needs a loud and influential voice he would of been a good candidate. I do feel though someone like Blair would of made any federalist intent of the EU to prominent. Im skeptical to the reasons the EU needs a fulltime president, it would terrible for it to become representative like Obama or Bush instead of as intended; a mediator.
 
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Susano

Registered Member
#6
The reason Blair wasnt chosen is that nobody liked him. That had few to do with leftwing/rightwing, and more with his support for the Iraq War. Many saw that as selling Europe out, making him qite unsuitable for being an EU President.

Anyways, bah, bah, thrice bah. Damn EU, damn Irish, damn Cameron.
 

Bananas

Endangered Species
#7
The reason Blair wasnt chosen is that nobody liked him. That had few to do with leftwing/rightwing, and more with his support for the Iraq War. Many saw that as selling Europe out, making him qite unsuitable for being an EU President.
It has everything to do with left/right wing. There were two deciding factors in the Presidency. One was a meeting by the UK, Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia, Portugal and Austria in Austria on the 19th November, all notable left wing governments who were there to decide how their votes would be cast to be most favourable to their agendas. The other was the callaboration between Merkel & Sarkozy to put their chosen man Van Rompuy in the top job.


Anyways, bah, bah, thrice bah. Damn EU, damn Irish, damn Cameron.
I understand the first two bahs, a little confused on the third?
 

Susano

Registered Member
#8
For retracting his promise to have the UK hold a referendum about the treaty.

I mean, you would think constitutional issues should always be subject to referenda, but it seems the EU elites do not believe much in democracy. Big surprise. Yes, there is much distrust against "the elites" with me, but its justified: Without referenda and the like, and considering elections are usually won and lost over other issues, how to find out just who speaks for "the" Germans, Frenchs, Dutch, Italians, etc?
 

Bjarki

Registered Member
#9
I think you overestimate this distrust against "the elites". Fortunately, Wilders doesn't speak on behalt of "the" Dutch, neither does Le Pen speak on behalf of "the" French.
Let's see in a year from now how well the people of Europe feel represented. The EU is so big that individual votes have completely no influence. This doesn't matter in the US or China because there's a shared sense of identity, but that's completely not the case in Europe. I have no confidence at all that ANY other european people understands the sensitivities of the Dutch and yet I should trust them with the sovereignty to rule?
Furthermore, do you feel connected to the European socialist section/party? I'm fairly sure you can name only 1 or 2 of its members (I can't even name 1 :stare:). In the national states these parties are at least connected to a union, they all have members aligned to the parties, its representatives speak the same language and present themselves to the public at a regular basis. I don't see that happening on a european level.

It's true the EU is lacking more democratic legitimation -- but for some reason, those who are the strongest opponents of more transparency and democracy in the EU are the very same people who keep lamenting about "losing national identity", the lack of democracy in the EU and the EU in general (and, of course, rant against Muslims, foreigners and anything foreign). Nationalists and xenophobes of all kind, who insist on "national sovereignty" and thus block any attempt for more democracy, because it allegedly "decreases" this "national sovereignty".
Any progress in the development of the EU erodes the national sovereignty further. I could care less if the institute is more or less democratic, I do not wish to grant it any power at all.
You can urge for a better Eu, but you'll still get the Eu in the end, which is not what I want. Thus I will vote against anything that even remotely smells like Eu. :)
And no, that's not xenophobia. I just don't see why it's not enough to have just an economic union. A political union for me equals less control over my own destiny, a higher chance of getting involved in international conflicts, less liberty and the great possibility of losing the culturally and ethnically diverse Old Europe.

And then, the EU has become a bit more open and democratic with this new treaty. Referendum petitions are possible now, and the EU Parliament gets more competence.
Don't get me started on referenda, I know exactly how they work in Europe :shake:

And despite all its flaws, we shouldn't forget where we'd be without the EU. Without an integrated market, we'd not just have to pay costums and exchange money for any transnational transaction and get a VISA for travelling into the neighbor country -- we'd soon have a situation like in the 19th century again, with a fragile "balance of power" and alliances that may very well lead to a new major war on European soil (that NATO is not sufficient to bind Europe together without a major common enemy was more than obvious in case of Iraq).
The first are economic issues solved by an economic union (which I'm not against). I personally doubt without the EU we would be fighting eachother again. We have come to the conclusion that war is a bad thing and that boundaries are fixed by ethnicity (which is the only cause of war in Europe, and that's in the east).

Transition democracies in central eastern Europe would have likely fallen apart again, becoming failing states or autocrat regimes, like in Belarus or Caucasia, and a constant poverty gap between West and East. The larger players would have to meddle anyway and fill these power vaccuums, but without well defined rules and without an order where even smaller states have a fair voice -- Europe would fall apart into French, German, Russian zones of influence and satellites, who may very well get in armed conflict on the long run.
I don't think the EU can really avoid a new Yugoslavia. The war against yugoslavia was 'won' because neither party could win it and Milosevic had established most of his targets. Now with the whole Kosovo thing the EU sides with the Kosovars and pisses off the Serbs once again. There really isn't much we can do to appease both parties.
And well the struggle for influence with this construction will now be fought on a global scale. We will be competing with the US, Russia and China for world dominance. Sounds much more dangerous and real to me than getting caught up between France and Germany's rivalry again :shifteyes:

One proposal in the Lisbon Treaty is the principle of subsidiarity: Culture remains in the power of the member states and will not be directed from Brussels, just like the EU is only supposed to direct where it can direct more efficiently than the national governments. I don't think the EU would ever meddle into such a question, like crucifixes in schools.
It was due to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which is tied to the EU.

You can see it from the other side: The EU can take responsibility to prevent chaos in front of its door, like Yugoslavia. When we allow local conflicts to explode, this is not beneficial for the interests of each single member state -- nobody wants to deal with waves of asylum seekers, damaged economic relations and chaos. And only when we combine our power, we can make a difference. If we don't get our act together, we're just receiving orders from the US anyway and aren't more than satellites.
Don't you think it's better to be a satellite than to be active in global politics and thereby competing with the US, China and Russia?
In Yugoslavia, I'm fairly sure, we would fail again. The Eu is nothing more than the UN or Nato when it comes to solving conflicts, it will fail equally bad in new crisis situations (Georgia anyone?).
 

Bananas

Endangered Species
#10
For retracting his promise to have the UK hold a referendum about the treaty.
To be fair, seeing as the treaty has already been ratified any referendum on it would be rather pointless. Cameron cant do anything until/if he has that authority. If a referendum were held if gets to power and the voters said "no to lisbon" the UK would have little choice but to leave the EU or declare the treaty illegal/void and then get embroiled into a quagmire of political turmoil between the politicians in Brussels and those in Westminister over who has what power and where probably leading to either the UK getting kicked out (unlikely seeing as the monetary contribution) or the whole treaty being scrapped leaving 26 other countries going now who has what power and where!

I mean, you would think constitutional issues should always be subject to referenda, but it seems the EU elites do not believe much in democracy.
Cameron is not an elite yet. He has a lot of voice and driving force but with all respect very little power.