December 1, 2009
The following article was published by EurActiv.com on 1st December 2009.
The European Union’s Lisbon Treaty comes into force today (1 December), bringing to life the bloc’s plans to overhaul its institutions and gain a greater role on the world stage.
“The Treaty of Lisbon puts citizens at the centre of the European project. I’m delighted that we now have the right institutions to act and a period of stability, so that we can focus all our energy on delivering what matters to our citizens,” European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said in a statement.
The treaty increases the powers of the European Parliament and make EU decision-making less unwieldy. It creates an EU president and enhances the powers of its foreign policy chief, who will oversee a new diplomatic corps.
Supporters say Lisbon lays the foundations for the EU’s efforts to have influence in the new world order after the rise of emerging powers such as China in the global economic crisis.
Critics say the EU has already undermined that aim by struggling to win the backing of all 27 member states for the treaty, which took eight years to negotiate and ratify, and by choosing low-key figures as president and foreign affairs chief. All sides agree change will be slow.
Much depends on how the EU’s new leaders define their jobs in the coming years and the willingness of member governments to put European needs above narrow national interests.
“The treaty will strengthen the EU at a time when it needs strengthening and at a time when the Europeans are increasingly perceived as has-beens on the world stage,” said Hugo Brady of the Centre for European Reform think-tank in London.
Daniel Gros, an analyst at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies think-tank, said there would be many good organisational changes under the treaty but the bloc would not carry more weight in international diplomacy overnight.
“It will not be a revolution,” he said. “In the first years, at least, the key challenge is not so much to resolve major crises but to make the machinery work and set precedents that are useful for later.”
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