The Lisbon Treaty in context

As we have seen throughout this unit, the Lisbon Treaty introduced a number of changes. Here is a recap of a few of the important ones you should be aware of.

The legal nature of the EU

As we saw in module two, the pillar structure of the EU ceases to exist under the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty and all three pillars are now subsumed under the EU. The former EC Treaty has been renamed the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and this will mean that the Union will have the power of legal jurisdiction over new areas, most notably justice and home affairs (although some states have opted out of giving up powers in this area).

These changes do not really affect Common Foreign and Security Policy decisions as by and large member states will retain the right of veto on these issues. The only foreign policy instances where they will not retain it relate to those areas formerly under the EC Treaty. However, this does not change anything from the previous situation, as these issues have been community competences for some time and are related to less contentious international issues such as international trade and development (where member states generally tend to agree).

Institutional changes

Again as we saw in module two, the European Council became an official EU institution after Lisbon. This recognised officially what had been a reality since the creation of the European Council.

Slightly more contentious was the creation of a new permanent President of the European Council (currently Donald Tusk) and a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who will also act as vice president of the Commission. The High Representative (currently Federica Mogherini) is assisted by the European External Action Service (EEAS). The EEAS is not an official institution per se but rather exists to serve the High Representative as a form of European Foreign Service. It is a sizeable part of the Brussels machinery designed to increase Europe’s presence and capability on the world stage.

These new institutional changes are not as revolutionary as the may initially seem. The EU already had a rotating EU presidency. The new president is not conferred with any significant powers beyond those that former rotating presidents had. They do, however, serve for a longer term, adding, it is argued, continuity to the position. However, as we have seen from the video clip of William Hague on the previous page, some fear that this position could lead to the creation of a fully fledged President of Europe.

Increases in the use of the co-decision/ordinary legislative procedure

The Lisbon Treaty increases the use of the co-decision/ordinary legislative procedure in EU decision-making, thus augmenting the role of the Parliament in EU affairs. This is important – as we have seen in previous modules, the use of the ordinary legislative procedure shifts the nature of EU decision-making towards the more supranational end of the policy making spectrum and thus the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty undoubtedly makes the EU more supranational in nature overall and, through greater involvement of the Parliament, arguably more democratic.

See the areas that now fall under the co-decision procedure