Historic EU Treaty deal finally clinched in Lisbon.jpg

Historic EU Treaty deal finally clinched in Lisbon


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LISBON IS to be the stage of the most important and historic European treaty since the forming of the European Union in 1957.

After over seven hours of negotiations at an Informal Summit on Thursday, leaders and representatives of the 27 member states finally reached agreement in the early hours of Friday morning.

It now looks increasingly likely that the new Reformed Treaty, which will be known as the Treaty of Lisbon, will be officially ratified by all member states after it is signed on December 13 in the Portuguese capital.

But hammering out the Treaty of Lisbon, a watered down version of the failed European Union Constitution, proved no easy matter as Poland and Italy argued over the devil in the detail. However, after hours of exhaustive talks, objections voiced by both countries were finally overcome.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski said that Poland had “got what it wanted” and that the EU Reform Treaty project was “now crowned with success” and that he was “happy this whole business is now behind us.”

He had justified greater voting power in the EU on the grounds that Poland would today have had a much bigger population if the Germans hadn’t killed six million Poles during the Second World War.

The Reformed Constitution envisages the Double Majority Voting System which, according to some countries, better reflects the true size of their populations and acknowledges smaller member states’ fears of being overruled by larger countries. Now smaller countries can delay decisions they don’t agree with.

British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown,

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the British national interest had been protected.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the British national interest had been protected.

flew into Lisbon backing the Reformed Treaty despite the fact that both opposition parties in the United Kingdom are accusing him of preparing to sell British interests and sovereignty down the river and demanding that the Reformed Treaty be put to a national referendum.

However, the British Prime Minister succeeded in brokering a deal whereby the United Kingdom will retain self determination in key policy areas such as Justice, Internal Administration and Security.

Gordon Brown said that the UK’s “red lines” around various policy areas had been secured and that the “British national interest had been protected.”

In a brief statement to journalists, he said that it was now time “for Europe to address detailed issues of global economic change, climate change and security.” He also reiterated Britain’s refusal to attend the forthcoming EU-Africa Summit in December if Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe attended citing the regime’s “appalling record on human rights” which had “reduced 80 per cent of the population to poverty and created four million refugees.”

The New Reformed Treaty means:

• The creation of a new longer-term President of the European Council and an EU Foreign Policy Minister.

• Italy will gain an extra seat in the future European Parliament making it as important representationaly as the UK, Germany and France.

• Poland secured its desire that small countries would be able to delay EU decisions they don’t agree with.

• Austria will maintain its quotas for foreign students attending its universities, with the European Commission agreeing to suspend its legal action over the country’s quota.

• Bulgaria has won the right to call the EU single currency the EVRO in Cyrillic alphabet rather than EURO.

• The Reformed Treaty reduces the number of lawmakers from 785 to 750.

Other novelties designed to speed up decision making within the European Union include a reformed voting system and the abolition of vetoes in many key areas.

The summit, which opened at the Atlantic Pavilion on Thursday afternoon (October 18) was long, hard and tense with Portuguese Prime Minister José Sócrates presiding over the negotiations which ultimately would have made or broke the Portuguese EU Presidency’s success in hammering out the final treaty – failing to reach an agreement would have left unresolved issues to the next rotating Presidency holder, Slovenia.

No excuses

The original European Union Constitution was effectively sabotaged by France and Holland after those two countries voted in a referendum against measures which would have seriously compromised their generous union protection and labour laws in favour of a more efficient, flexible and less secure employment legislation package – the so-called Flexi-Security.

The initial European Constitution plan had been to create a new European super state or United States of Europe which would have included its own European Anthem and flag. The new 250-page Reformed Treaty document falls seriously short of that vision.

Instead of replacing previous treaties, it amends and adapts them, which has enabled the British government, for example, to resist pressure for holding a national referendum over key sovereignty issues.

Before the summit, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso called on all European leaders to “honour their responsibilities” adding that “no one is interested in moments of weakness” and that there were “no excuses for not reaching an agreement at the Lisbon Summit.”

José Manuel Durão Barroso had also said that he had “full confidence in the way in which the Portuguese Presidency had been run” before leaving Brussels for Lisbon on Wednesday where last week’s ‘informal summit’ of 27 EU leaders and representatives was held.

After the informal summit he called the Reformed Treaty a “great achievement” and added that he believed that Europe had a treaty “which will now give us the capacity to act.”

“This is an historic agreement. Now Europe can defend its interests in the age of globalization. We’re really talking about an agreement which gives the European Union a capacity to act in the 21st century,” he added.

“Our citizens want results. They want to see in concrete terms what Europe brings them in their daily lives,” he said.

After the summit, a relieved-looking Portuguese Prime Minister José Sócrates said that Europe had “emerged from a constitutional crisis” with the agreement and was showing clear signs that the European Project was “once again on the move”. “This is a victory for Europe and we are getting out of a blind alley. We no longer have a constitutional crisis. Now we can look forward to the future with confidence,” he said.

The reactions of  other key negotiators in the process were equally positive. The EU’s longest serving leader, Luxemburg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, called it a “good treaty for Europe.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy,

German Chancellor Angela Merkel added that “after all the political discussions this is a great success”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel added that “after all the political discussions this is a great success”

widely believed to have been partly responsible for breaking the deadlock, said he was “extremely satisfied” with the result, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel added that “after all the political discussions this is a great success” and that “nothing has been changed from the mandate we agreed at the end of the German Presidency.”

The Reformed Treaty or Treaty of Lisbon is designed to replace the European Constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was “extremely satisfied” with the result.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was “extremely satisfied” with the result.

in referendums in 2005. It will be signed in Lisbon in December and should come into force in 2009.

However, its future is still far from assured since the Treaty of Lisbon will have to be ratified by all 27 member states through member state parliaments or referendums, of which only Ireland, so far, is likely, for judicial reasons, to hold.

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