The new Treaty of Lisbon, signed in Lisbon on 13 December 2007, focuses on the European Union’s need for modernisation and reform. It is designed to make the enlarged Union more democratic, meeting citizens’ expectations for accountability, transparency and participation, and more efficient in order to tackle today’s global challenges such as climate change, security and sustainable development.
The target date for ratification set by member governments is 1 January 2009 – some months before the elections to the European Parliament.
Key institutional innovations and important policy changes:
- a Permanent Council President to chair EU summits for a two-and-a-half year renewable terms, instead of the existing six-month rotation;
- a more transparent voting system based on the double majority rule for Council decisions (need for 55 percent of member states and 65 percent of the European Union’s population to support proposed EU legislation to pass by qualified majority). Due to strong Polish opposition, the new voting system will be applied as of 2014;
- the post of a High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy replacing the current posts of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and the external relations commissioner and supported by a new European External Action Service;
- reducing the number of Commissioners from 27 to 15 by 2014;
- reducing the number of MEPs to a maximum of 750 (a minimum of six and maximum of 96 per country)
- a strengthened role for the European Parliament (new powers and increased co-decision procedures)
- strengthening national parliaments by giving them the right to challenge European legislation as a reinforced control mechanism for the principle of subsidiarity;
- a single legal personality for the EU;
- an exit clause, making it possible for members to leave the EU;
- an extension of qualified majority voting to 40 policy areas (mainly those relating to asylum, immigration, police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters);
- more EU coordination in the policy areas of freedom, security and justice, such as combating terrorism or tackling crime, and to some extent also in energy policy, public health, civil protection, climate change, services of general interest, research, space, territorial cohesion, commercial policy, humanitarian aid, sport, tourism and administrative cooperation.
- the Charter of Fundamental Rights becoming legally binding.