A new European Union after Lisbon?

After many years of skirmishes, referendums and tense debates, the Treaty of Lisbon finally entered into force on 1 December 2009.

The institutional framework of the European Union will finally become more transparent and streamlined although a few exceptions remain for the opt-outs granted to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland and Czech Republic.

The European Parliament will have (almost) full legislative powers and the European Court of Justice will monitor adherence to and respect of the rule of law in (almost) all domains falling under the European Union competence.

The European Community will therefore disappear after fifty-two years of honourable service. It will be incorporated within the European Union which will not hide its political vocation any further by pretending to be an economic body, as “eurosceptic” countries wanted it to be.

This arm wrestling, lasted for almost thirty years. It began with the Council of the European Union in London in 1981 when the foreign affairs ministers of Germany and Italy, namely Genscher and Colombo, presented a project for a “European Act”. Its aim was to develop political cooperation as well as promote the culture, fundamental rights and harmonisation of national legislations outside the domains already covered by the Community treaties, together with the fight against terrorism and criminality.

As it was the case for the biblical parable’s seed, those ideas considered pure rhetoric by the majority, have then been taken up by the ” Solemn Declaration on European Union” adopted in Stuttgart on 19 June 1983 and, most importantly, by the Draft Treaty approved by the European Parliament with a large majority on 14 February 1984 on the initiative of Altiero Spinelli. This was followed by the Treaty on the Single European Act (1986), Maastricht (1992), Amsterdam (1997) and Nice (2000) and the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe blocked by France and the Netherlands’ referenda which will be brought to the forefront again with the Treaty of Lisbon, whose ratification has now been celebrated.

As with all challenges, this one left everybody exhausted including those that hoped for greater popular support as well as those that, till the very end, tried to boycott it.

Also, this text presents some of the old ambiguities and, most importantly, provided roots for new ones. However, nobody doubts that a historical phase has now been concluded and that a new political phase has started in the construction of the European Union.

The national high courts of justice are well aware of this new phase, not least the German one with its ruling of 30 June, and the Heads of State and Governments which , to avoid conflicts and surprises with a powerful European Union, have made sure that the new European posts have been assigned to reliable individuals.

Furthermore, the negotiations that took place over the past months on these appointments, without precedents on past legislations, are paradoxically the proof of the political relevance undertook by the Union.

With an increasingly active European Council and European Parliament, it will now become more difficult to hide behind the cover up of “European bureaucrats” of Brussels to escape the opinion of European citizens.

This is not something to be underestimated.
Emilio De Capitani

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