New Reform Treaty to Legalize European Union’s Structure

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Oct. 19, 2007 (NEW YORK) The day before European leaders agreed at a Lisbon summit to support a landmark European Union (EU) reform treaty, Law School students received an insider’s view of its key provisions from France’s former EU advisor. Speaking at a lecture organized by the European Legal Studies Center on Oct. 18,   Raphael Hadas-Lebel, chamber president of Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest legal advisory institution, said that the treaty’s provisions would legitimize and strengthen the EU as a governing body.
 Member countries will still need to ratify the agreement either through their parliaments or by referendum after EU leaders formally accept it on Dec. 13.
Director of the European Legal Studies Center George A. Bermann, Jean Monnet Professor of European Union Law, moderated the event.
Member nations failed to ratify a constitution in 2005, Hadas-Lebel said, adding that this time around no one is calling the treaty a “constitution,” although it contains 90 percent of the failed constitution’s provisions, he said.
“European nations resist the idea of a governing document that might overshadow their own constitutions,” he added, explaining they react this way despite the reality that EU rulings are binding on member nations. “National parliaments are concerned about losing power. This struggle is inherent in federalism.”
The treaty’s provisions include these key points:
  • A full-time president whose term would increase from six months to two and one-half years
  • A new vice presidential post
  • A high representative of foreign affairs
  • A new double-majority voting system (phased in over three years starting in 2014)  in which decisions must be approved by 55 percent of member nations representing 65 percent of  the population
  • Reduced size of the executive European Commission from 27 to 18 commissioners
  • Provisions by which a nine-member minority could prevent majority rule under certain circumstances
 In an effort to avoid resembling a constitution, there’s no mention of the EU’s flag, anthem or motto, he said, although these will remain in use.