Friday, December 14, 2007

EU: EU treaty to "empower the people"

The signature of the Reform Treaty in Lisbon marks the end of a long road of negotiation and compromise. However, what is only just started is the ratification process and then how it will change the workings of the European Union and its 27 members. Parliament's President Hans-Gert Pöttering has already hailed it as a "victory for the EU's citizens". Here, we take a quick look at some of the key changes and how they will affect the EU over the next few years.

Elected MEPs will elect the President of the European Commission
Under the new Treaty elected MEPs will elect the President of the European Commission, so the holder of the post will reflect the views expressed through European elections. The next European Parliament election will be in June 2009.

Citizens can take the initiative If 1 million citizens from several EU members sign a petition they have the right to ask the European Commission (the Union's executive) to introduce a draft law.

Parliament's "co-decision" legislative power enlarged

The new Treaty gives the Parliament equal legislative power with the Council in most areas. In particular MEPs see their "co-decision" powers extended in the internal market, economic policy, border control, asylum and the fight against illegal immigration.

More open Council of Ministers meetings

Previously meetings of EU Ministers were held behind closed doors. Now some of their meetings are open to the public and that will be reinforced by the treaty.

Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Charter is not part of the Treaty, although it does becomes legally binding through it. It specifically mentions the rights of citizens, such as the right to engage in work and to collective bargaining. It will be applicable in all EU states except the UK and Poland. The Charter was solemnly proclaimed in the European Parliament on 12 December.

The Treaty was signed today, but has to be ratified by all governments before it can come into effect. It is expected to become law in early 2009.

Source: European Parliament