Friday

18th Jan 2019

EU leaders to sign up to new treaty

  • Only 16 leaders are expected to sign a declaration on EU symbols (Photo: European Commission)

EU leaders will fly to Lisbon today to sign up to a new treaty for the European Union, a ceremony that has almost been overshadowed by travel details and the British prime minister's agenda clash.

The new set of rules for the European Union, some six years in the making, will be signed off at a monastery in the Portuguese capital at 11.30 this morning, officially turning the document into the Treaty of Lisbon.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"The treaty is, of course, not perfect," said European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, ahead of the signature, with the new rules spread out across a series of treaties, old and new, and containing a hotpotch of opt-outs, protocols and declarations to keep all national capitals happy.

Its most visible innovations include a permanent president of the EU, an EU foreign minister, greater powers to the European Parliament and a legally binding citizens rights charter.

In addition, it reduces the size of the European commission, allows for easier decision-making by changing voting rules - both from 2014 - and curbs the power of single member states to veto legislation.

The treaty is designed to make the EU more effective on the world stage both by giving it a more coherent foreign policy and by allowing it to take decisions quickly.

Today's ceremony also draws a line under what has been a difficult few years for the EU which was plunged into crisis mid 2005 when two of its founding member states rejected the original European constitution.

It took two years for the bloc to pick itself up and finally agree on the Lisbon Treaty, which takes on most of the draft constitution's innovations, but not its reader-friendly format.

Although some leaders are likely to hail the historic importance of the occasion, the run-up to the ceremony has been dogged by more pragmatic concerns.

Plane pooling, EU symbols and the British PM

Green groups have accused the EU of being blatantly hypocritical by preaching about the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but staging a short signing ceremony in Lisbon before all EU leaders fly back again for their end of year summit in Brussels, beginning tomorrow.

Some EU politicians have since been at pains to stress their green credentials by plane pooling.

Mr Barroso is expected to share a plane with Portuguese prime minister Socrates, both of whom will be flying from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, while the leaders of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg will arrive together as will the leaders of Sweden and Denmark.

Meanwhile, British prime minister Gordon Brown – for whom the EU treaty is a domestic political headache - has managed to create reams of headlines for himself by first saying he would not attend the ceremony due to an agenda clash and then saying he would attend it, but only later.

This means that he is set to sign the treaty alone, about an hour and half after his EU counterparts.

Member states' disparate approach to the EU has also been highlighted by an attempt by Germany to get the 27 to sign up to a declaration in support of the EU symbols – the flag, anthem and motto – which were dropped from the new treaty. Only 16 leaders are expected to sign this declaration.

The signing the treaty immediately brings the next stage into sharp focus: ratification.

All member states have to ratify the treaty for it to come into force, with several states, including France, aiming to have the process completed early in 2008. Ireland is the only country likely to have a referendum on the document, which is supposed to come into place by early 2009.

Meanwhile, next year will see EU diplomats try and work out all the sensitive political loose ends that have been left open in the treaty, including the exact set-up for the planned diplomatic service.

German spies to monitor far-right AfD party

Germany's domestic spy agency, the BfV, is to start monitoring the far-right AfD party in a move endorsed by the government, but decried as a witch-hunt by the party's leaders.

Opinion

On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?

If the European parliament votes in favour of the new Morocco agreement without knowing that it complies with the European Court of Justice judgement, how can it demand that other countries respect international law and their own courts?

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret

A number of centre-right MEPs are pushing for a secret ballot on a plenary vote that would make EU lawmakers more transparent and accountable to the public - in a move described as "absurd" by Transparency International.

Opinion

On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?

If the European parliament votes in favour of the new Morocco agreement without knowing that it complies with the European Court of Justice judgement, how can it demand that other countries respect international law and their own courts?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us