Fourth member state having ratified the Lisbon Treaty

The beginning of the period of the Lisbon Treaty ratification, after its signature in December 2007, has been a new opportunity for Romanian President Traian Băsescu, as well as for the Prime Minister, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, to restate the importance of Romania’s participation – for the first time as a fully-fledged Member State – to the signature of a Treaty that is crucial for the future of an institutional architecture shaped according to the EU’s current formula of 27 Member States. According to the statements made by the Prime Minister, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, at the closing of the European Council’s session in Brussels[1], “the formal closure of the debates regarding institutional matters, alongside with the conclusion of this Treaty, mark a new stage, that allows us to highlight specific projects that address the European Union's citizens. This is the so-called Europe of Results stage (…). It is very important to move forward to the next level, which is to ratify the Reform Treaty”.
 
Timetable for ratification
 
In what concerns the ratification’s timetable, the Romanian officials have expressed, from the very beginning, their intention to speed up the necessary procedures for the parliamentary ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, so that Romania could be among the first Member States to ratify the document[2]. The joint Committees for Legal Affairs within the Romanian Chamber of Deputies and Senate have promptly adopted their report on the Treaty.
 
On February 4th, 2008, when the French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivered a speech during the plenary of the Romanian Parliament, increasing thus through his presence to Bucharest the visibility of the ratification moment, the Romanian members of the Senate, as well as of the Chamber of Deputies have been summoned to debate the report on the Lisbon Treaty and to rule by means of a ratification decision. Therefore, the Lisbon Treaty was ratified with 387 votes in favour, one against and one abstention, Romania being the fourth country to ratify the Treaty. The vote against belongs to small eurosceptic party and the abstention to a Conservative member of the Romanian Parliament.
 
Communicating the Lisbon Treaty
 
The exigencies related to the popularization plans for the Lisbon Treaty at the level of the Romanian public opinion, carried out through debates concerning its importance and innovating dimension, do not aim mainly at the objectives of a classic ratification campaign as the Treaty is already ratified. The expectations regarding the lack of “challenges” or major obstacles during the ratification process in Romania have led to the insertion of the Treaty’s topic on the public agenda in a field of post-ratification exclusively information debates, focusing on the consequences of the new treaty’s provisions on the future of the Union, but also on Romania’s future as one of its Member States. For instance, “Romania’s place and role within the European Union after the Lisbon Treaty”[3] or “The Reform Treaty of the European Union: its impact on the European construction”[4] are the themes of two public events taking place during a period of time that coincides with the Treaty’s ratification procedures. Also, at the academic level, the interest for this topic proved to be high. In October 2007, a Jean Monnet seminar[5] organized by the Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, included a workshop-session entirely dedicated to the topic "The European Union’s future. The Reform Treaty”. The workshop dealt with aspects related to the evolution of the institutional and constitutional reforms of the Union over the last years, a comparative analysis of the key elements of the Reform Treaty and of the Constitutional Treaty from the perspective of missing the initial constitutional ambitions, or with the scenarios of a flexible integration process of the EU, as possible solutions meant to deepening the Union’s policies.
 
Still in an academic environment, the Romanian President Traian Băsescu delivered a speech on "The Lisbon Treaty. New horizons”[6]. His intervention was centred on what the president identified as “the desiderata around which the provisions of the Reform Treaty develop: a more democratic and transparent, a more efficient EU, the enshrinement of a set of rights, values and principles on which the Union is based and the more visible and influential EU’s role on the global stage”.
 
There are enough indications according to which the topic of the Lisbon Treaty will not be considered as an occasional subject on the agenda of the public debates scheduled for this year in Romania. There is quite a high interest in analyzing the impact of the Treaty’s provisions on the evolutions at European level, as well as on Romania’s position in relation to these developments. The main institutions that have already made public their intentions to engage, in 2008, debates regarding the Lisbon Treaty are the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission Representation in Romanian and the European Institute of Romania. At the level of communication and information projects, partnerships are still at an incipient stage, which will later be followed by their standing out and materialization. 
 
The “Committee of the Wise”
 
The proposal initially made by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, did not have a very strong echo at the Romanian public opinion level, circles of reflection or political field. Except for one neutral and descriptive article (posted by EurActiv Romania) related to the idea of creating a “Comité des Sages” which, despite its rather unclear mandate, is supposed to deal with the analysis of some major topics for the future of Europe, no nuanced opinions were made on the necessity, the role and possible added value of the activity of such a "High Level Reflection Group“.
 
Mainly, the idea of creating expert groups to analyze and draw reports on the punctual problems that the European Union has faced throughout time is not an entirely new one. The utility and relevance of the results of such an initiative for reflection, especially in the case of a group without a very precise “job description”, but with a questionable democratic legitimacy, are still uncertain. The doubts already expressed by certain European officials (Commissioner Rehn, Commissioner Wallström) or different members of the European Parliament could be considered as well-founded enough from a certain point of view. Considering the continuation of the enlargement process and the fact that the negotiations engaged with the states taking part in this process follow some rules and criteria already agreed upon, the conclusions of a report to be drawn by a group led by an ex-politician that already made public his scepticism in what concerns Turkey’s accession (the former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González Márquez), could be easily contested by the European enlargement supporters. Although the excerpt devoted to the possible mandate of this group, "to take into account likely developments within and outside Europe and examine in particular how the stability and prosperity of both the Union and of the wider region might best be served in the longer term", does not include direct references to the enlargement topic (or to the necessity of setting out the Union’s borders), Sarkozy’s original vision associated to his paternity as concerns this initiative is hard to be ignored by those who doubt the equidistance of the Committee of the Wise within the current controversial discussions for-against Turkey’s accession. The reluctance engendered by certain arrière pensées that might influence the reflection approach of “the 12” will probably keep being expressed before, but also after, the presentation of the report’s conclusions in June 2010.  
 
Still, the argument of the so-called “elitist” feature of the “Gonzalez group” as a possible obstacle for the efforts made during these last years in order to involve the European citizens in the debate concerning the future of the European Union seems slightly exaggerated. The analysis of EU’s most important issues can be achieved at different levels, from a multitude of perspectives and can lead to different conclusions and scenarios. Expressing the European ordinary people’s opinions does not face the risk of being altered by a parallel initiative carried out by a Committee of the Wise. Furthermore, the diagnosis of the Union’s paralysis or malaise at the level of long-term visions and bold projects can now find a “cure”. The original elitism of the European construction project must be indeed overcome, but this is an objective that can be achieved also by saving, and not annihilating its visionary substance.


[1] The Press Office of the Romanian Government, 14 of December 2007.

[2] “As I have previously stated, I wish Romania would be one of the first states to ratify the Reform Treaty, whose text does not include major changes as compared to the Constitutional Treaty, that has already been ratified by our country”, Tăriceanu stated.

[3] Conference organized on January 30th, 2008, by the G. C. Marshall Association, Romania, G. C. Marshall European Centre for Security Studies and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bucharest, with the participation of the president of the Foreign Policy Committee within the Romanian Parliament, Mr. Mircea Geoană (Social-Democrats leader, the main opposition party in Romania) and of Mr. Gunther Krichbaum, president of the EU Affairs Committee within the German Bundestag.

[4] Seminar organized by the Institute for Liberal Studies, on 5 February 2008, one day after Romania’s ratification of the Treaty.

[5] Romania, one year after the accession. European agenda, national agenda, 25-27 October 2007.

[6] The Department for Public Communication of the Presidential Administration, 23 November 2007.