Treaty of Lisbon is the culmination of many years of negotiations highlighted by heated debates, compromise, and disappointments. All twenty seven members of the European Union signed the agreement with Czech Republic President Vaclac Klaus being the last signator opening a whole new era in human rights and responsibilities on the continent of Europe.
The European Union had struggled under a burgeoning bureaucracy and one of the original goals of the members was to streamline their operations as much as possible
Streamlining would make the Union more efficient and make it a more attractive trading partner. Unfortunately, in the first few months of operation under the new treaty arrangement problems developed in the management of the Union. Besides confusion relative to how the leadership was actually to work several cliques developed. There was also criticism relative to the appointment of the Union's President, Herman Van Rompuy, and the new foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton. When Greece entered the brink of bankruptcy questions rose relative to how solid the euro, the European Union's common currency, was but the leaders of France and Germany stepped forward and exercised their influence to balance affairs
. Now the members are settling in and taking a look and see attitude in an effort to see how the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty will affect the operation of the fragile European Union.
The European Union has been a theory in the making for over sixty years. As the Lisbon Treaty represents the Union is a physical reality but as a theory it must be constantly tested and tested again in order to verify its theoretical value and its sustainability. As a theory the Union has its proponents and detractors. There are many who consider the theory to be a workable concept while there are many who believe that is has no real value
. Due to its nature and the environment in which it operates it is not surprising that any discussion regarding the Union and especially any attempt at adjusting its operation is surrounded by controversy. The debate surrounding the Lisbon Treaty, however, has been particularly acrimonious
. The political posturing has been intense and extremely partisan. Both the supporters and opponents of the Treaty have resorted to such tactics. Nevertheless the Treaty was eventually ratified by all twenty-seven (27) members and has been in effect for over two years. Its impact on the operation of the European Union remains a question as does its effect on the human rights.
History of the Treaty
Prior to the enactment of the Lisbon Treaty the European Union had attempted to ratify a prior constitution. Unfortunately, the voters in France and the Netherlands refused to approve it creating the need for a more acceptable agreement
. The drafters of the new agreement hope that the new treaty will serve to reduce the differences that have arose since the organization of the Union.
The negotiation process preceding the ratification of the Treaty was acrimonious and in order to satisfy all interests the wording of the agreement is lengthy and complex. The most striking difference between the old Union operation and the new Union under the Treaty was the creation of a presidency and a new foreign policy chief. It is the hope of Union members that the new foreign policy post will eventually develop into a position similar in prestige to that of the United States Secretary of State.
Planning for the eventual enactment of the Lisbon Treaty began in June of 2007
. The leadership of the European Union felt that there was a compelling need to reform the dated institutions within the Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the driving force behind the movement and provided the outline for what was originally entitled the "Reform Treaty." In the initial stages two Union members, Poland and the United Kingdom, both offered resistance to the drive for a new agreement. Poland opposed the Merkel outline based upon their not agreeing with the proposed Council voting system that Poland leadership felt gave too much power and influence to the large Union members such as France and Germany. The United Kingdom, meanwhile, strongly opposed the concept of a "European foreign minister" and the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights which the UK felt would threaten their nation's flexible labor laws
. The hope of the Union leadership was that a new Treaty could be ironed out in time for the 2009 European elections so Poland and the United Kingdom's opposition was of grave concern. German Chancellor Merkel successfully convinced Polish President Lech Kaczynski and the Polish government to withdraw their opposition by promising the inclusion of an energy solidarity clause that soothed Polish concerns over tense relations with Russia. The United Kingdom's concerns were allayed by the Union's granting them an exemption from the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the rebranding the foreign minister post and naming it as the "High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy."
The first draft of the proposed treaty was introduced by the Portuguese President to the European Union foreign ministers at the Intergovernmental Conference on July 23, 2007. Fears that Poland might delay the negotiation process were quickly softened by the Polish foreign minister at the conference's opening. With this fear out of the way the ministers were optimistic that the terms of the treaty could be formulated with little delay.
Developments in Poland, however, soon caused the Conference attendees new concerns. Within days of the conference opening the Polish parliament announced their intent to hold early elections. It had been the intent of the Union leadership to have a proposed treaty available for the European elections and Poland's decision to conduct their elections earlier jeopardized the Union's timetable. In addition, Poland also announced that their government was seeking the same opt out guarantee that had been promised the United Kingdom regarding the Charter of Fundamental Rights
. Undaunted the Union proceeded with their plans with the hope that an agreement could be worked out prior to the Polish elections. Lifting the spirits of the Union leadership was the renewed support from the United Kingdom which had earlier voiced its opposition.
In mid-October 2007, the Union's foreign ministers met in Luxembourg in an effort to work out the final details in advance of the Polish elections. The ministers faced a number of significant problems that some considered could pose a problem to ultimate ratification. These problems included:
Poland's continued insistence on the inclusion of the "Ioannina Compromise." This compromise allowed a country to delay key decisions even in the absence of enough votes to block them
. Opposition to the inclusion of such provision was based fears that allowing such exception would block the Union from making any decisions on important issues.
Italy objected to the proposed distribution of seats in the Union Parliament. Italy was concerned with maintaining parity with France and the United Kingdom
The new nation of Sofia wanted to alter the spelling of the European currency from euro to evro. The European Central Bank objected to this proposal but none of the Union members felt that the spelling was worth jeopardizing the agreement
Austria expressed concerns over Treaty wording that would limit its universities from recruiting foreign students
None of the above listed problems were considered significant enough to hold up the initial approval of the agreement and this proved to be true as the agreement was signed by the various ministers on December 14, 2007 but the official signing ceremony was tempered by the absence of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Brown's absence was viewed by many observers as a sign of British lack of commitment to the Union
. The signing of the agreement by the members' ministers, however, was only the first step in the process. The Treaty does not become operational until it has been ratified by the each other member nations either through legislative or voter approval. The Union's target date for beginning operations under the new Treaty remained January 1, 2010.
Within days of the ministers' signing the Lisbon Treaty Hungary stepped forward to become the first nation to ratify the Treaty with several more nations following in rapid succession. The Treaty appeared to be moving along toward ratification until it went before the Irish electors. Ireland was the only member of the Union that was required to submit the Lisbon Treaty to a popular vote and its defeat was a serious problem for the Union.
The reasons for the unpopularity of the Treaty in Ireland were varied. Among the reasons were how the Treaty handled social issues such as abortion, neutrality, tax sovereignty, military conscription, and the loss of an Irish commissioner on the Council. Unfortunately for the Union, there was little that could be done to satisfy the Irish concerns. To do so would have meant alienated other members of the Union who had pushed for included these provisions into the Treaty. After careful consideration the…