Lisbon Treaty: Ratification expected before July

The government will make the proposal on the Lisbon Treaty in March 2008 and thus it will most likely be discussed in the Parliament during the same month.[1] The Finnish government accepted the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (TCE) on 5th of December, 2006[2] which was preceded by a lengthy and in-depth discussion during which the security guarantees were among the main topics. For the reason that the discussion around TCE was so comprehensive, the discussion on Lisbon Treaty is expected to be short and the ratification process is expected to end before July. However, since this discussion, the government has changed in March 2007 and therefore there is some debate to be expected. The ultimate goal, alongside with the EU, is to ratify the Treaty during this year. One also has to bear in mind that the proposal has to be written in two official languages which takes longer time. It has already been decided that there will not be a referendum on the issue.[3] Communication with citizens is being coordinated by the Europe Information offices of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.[4] They are planning to publish a leaflet and hold seminars on the subject in various cities in Finland.

Smooth ratification of the Reform Treaty expected

Estonia regards the ratification of the Reform Treaty as the most important priority for the Slovenian presidency.[1] Although the government had been strongly in favour of the Constitutional Treaty and continued to defend it throughout the reflection period, it now regards the quick ratification of the Reform Treaty by all member states as the best solution. Agreement on the treaty, Prime Minister Ansip argues, allows the EU to „conclude disputes over the procedural rules and concentrate on solving real problems.”[2] Considering that member state governments have worked on amending the treaty already for six years, it is „time to finish this process now, ratify the treaty and move on.”[3] The Estonian government has repeatedly expressed hopes that all member states will manage to approve the treaty in 2008 and that the new agreement will enter into force on 1 January 2009.

Parliamentary ratification only

Denmark will not hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty as an investigation by the Danish Ministry of Justice in December 2007 concluded that the new treaty does not lead to any loss of national sovereignty. Under the Danish Constitution a referendum is needed when national sovereignty is relinquished to the EU (unless 5/6 majority in parliament is secured). Denmark was due to hold a vote on the European Constitution in 2005, but the planned referendum was scrapped after the no votes in France and the Netherlands. According to the Danish Ministry of Justice, nine mostly technical areas of the Constitutional Treaty would have involved a transfer of sovereignty to the EU, e.g. rules regarding identity papers, diplomatic protection, EU standards for medicine, and a common policy on space technology etc. These nine areas have been removed from the Lisbon Treaty leaving it for ratification by MPs[1].

The 2009 Council presidency restricts the debate on the Lisbon Treaty

The major political parties in the Czech Parliament all agree to the Lisbon Treaty (LT). It seems most likely that the treaty will be ratified in the parliament. This is a change comparable to the past discussions on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (TCE), in which the major right-wing party in Czech politics, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), was firmly against it. The ODS, being currently the major party of the governing coalition, has changed its position for two reasons. Firstly, the government does not want time-consuming discussions regarding a new treaty to overshadow the Czech Council presidency during the first half of 2009. Secondly, the ODS needed to find a compromise with the other two parties in the currently governing coalition, the Green Party and the Christian Democratic Party, which were both for ratifying the TCE.

Parliamentary ratification – little debate due to Presidential elections

When the 27 Heads of State and Government met in Lisbon on 13 December 2007 for the signing of the Reform Treaty, President Tassos Papadopoulos and Foreign Minister Ms Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis signed it on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus. The European Commission welcomed the signature of the Treaty of Lisbon and called for its swift ratification. The ‘Lisbon Treaty’ must be ratified by all 27 member states in order to enter into force on 1st January 2009.
In Cyprus, ratification will take place through the Parliamentary mode (as opposed to a referendum). According to Article 169 of the 1960 Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, international treaties are subject to approval by Parliament. Article 50 of the Constitution further stipulates that the President of the Republic and the Council of Ministers hold the right to veto Parliament’s decision.

Timetable for ratification vs. Croatian accession timetable

The signing of the Lisbon Treaty was very much welcomed in Croatia, having in mind the fact that it opens a clear perspective for integrating the country and the region into the EU. The signing of the Treaty was a historic day for the EU, stressed the Prime Minister Sanader at the meeting of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Brussels. In his opinion, the assumption for integrating Croatia (and later the other countries of the region) is to finish the process of Treaty ratification in 2008 or at the beginning of 2009, which will prepare the legal ground for the enlargement.[1]

Ratification via parliament

The future of the EU is a topic with very limited media coverage in Bulgaria. The leading actors demonstrating a considerably high level of activity with regard to this topic are mainly Bulgarian politicians directly involved in the EU policy-making process, i.e. the Prime Minister, the Foreign Affairs Minister, the Minister of European Affairs, and the Bulgarian MEPs. For the broader public and the NGO sector the EU’s future development and perspectives are not of a high priority. In this respect, the Bulgarian Minister of European Affairs Ms. Gergana Grancharova states that: “Bulgarian citizens are not interested in the EU policy-making process. They are interested in the EU decisions themselves.”[1] According to her, the Bulgarian debate on the EU future has been “shadowed” by domestic issues.[2]

No obstacles for parliamentary ratification – but some calls for a referendum

After the signing of the Lisbon Treaty Austria’s Chancellor Gusenbauer declared that the country would quickly ratify the treaty. In mid January 2008 the Lisbon Treaty was approved by the SPÖ–ÖVP coalition cabinet and passed on to the parliament.
Ursula Plassnik (ÖVP), Minister for European and International Affairs, declared she is expecting an intensive debate but a speedy authorization process in the parliament so that the proceedings will be finished by mid 2008. Observers do not see any obstacles to this timetable as the two coalition parties and the largest oppositional party, the Greens, have signalled to approve the treaty.
Communication with citizens
Chancellor Gusenbauer stated that one of the EU’s communication problems was the fact that common decisions are mainly based on compromises which have to take many different interests into consideration. Gusenbauer also mentioned that he aimed at strengthening political communication with the people, in order to better explain the significance and the contents of EU regulations. Gusenbauer criticised in this context the reflex to call the whole EU into question when people are not content with some decisions or regulations. He argued that the link between criticizing single issues and questioning the whole could only be broken by better communication.