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News in Brief, BB200710

EU leaders agree on Reform Treaty in Lisbon

05.11.2007

On 18 October, at an informal summit in Lisbon, EU heads of state finally reached an agreement on the Reform Treaty. This marks the end of a two-year impasse after the French and Dutch voted against the draft constitution in 2005. The new Treaty will make several changes to the running of the Union, replacing the six-month presidencies with a European Council president and an EU chief of foreign policy. It will also reduce the role of commissioners, and strengthen that of national parliaments.

The Treaty contains a chapter on energy policy, with the EU and the Member States sharing decision-making responsibility for the first time. One of the energy goals listed in the new legislation is “to promote energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and renewable forms of energy”.

The EU leaders had agreed on the outlines of the Reform Treaty on 23 June of this year, and a full version of it was presented earlier this month. There were some last minute issues related to countries such as the UK, Italy and Poland, which were granted concessions. The UK was able to safeguard its red lines and opt-out clauses in matters of justice, home affairs, foreign policy and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Poland gained a clause which allows small groups of countries to block EU decisions on a temporary basis, and Italy obtained an extra seat in the European Parliament.

Accordingly, the text was approved, to the evident relief and elation of EU leaders, who will officially sign what will probably become known as the ‘Lisbon Treaty’ on 13 December 2007. Responding to the positive decision, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso spoke of citizens’ desire to see what the EU brings them in concrete terms, and added, “I believe we have a treaty that will give us now the capacity to act". Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said that “the EU can start again to operate in a concrete way.''

The next step, however, is less straightforward – the Treaty must be ratified by all of the 27 Member States by 2009. This could potentially present some difficulties, as there are strong calls for a public referendum on the Treaty in countries such as the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands.

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