Six weeks later the Czech Republic became the 27th and final nation to sign the Treaty. On December 2, 2009 the Lisbon Treaty went into full effect one month prior to the date originally projected.
The driving force behind the drafting and ratification of the Lisbon Treaty was German Chancellor Merkel. When she assumed her six-month presidency of the European Union in January of 2007 she was determined to effect a change in how the Union was operated. At the European Council meeting in June of 2007 she was able to convince other EU leaders to join her in amending the treaties under which the Union operated. A prior attempt at organizing the Union under a constitution had failed and so it was believed that proceeding under the treaty procedure would be more acceptable to the other member states. The constitution concept had been rejected several other times by the member nations and the treaty approach has received greater support.
Winning approval for the new Treaty was nearly as difficult as negotiating the terms. Because each nation had to approve it any one nation had the power to stop its ratification. One nation, in fact, Ireland actually voted down the Treaty on its first attempt but the Union placed the Treaty up for additional consideration. Between the two votes the Irish economy worsened. The real estate market flattened entirely and the Irish voters decided that the timing was not right for Ireland to be left out of the European Union.
The reasons for the Irish objection was based on their concern that the Lisbon Treaty created an unelected president and foreign minister; halved Ireland's voting rights within the Union while doubling Germany's; opened the door to tax harmonization within Europe; and generally gave the Union too much potential control of Irish internal affairs
In the rest of Europe the voting went relatively smoothly. The use of the euro was well accepted and the strength of the euro on the international market served to help the economies of the various Union members and, as a result, voters decided that a continuing membership in the European Union was in their best economic best interests.
The Irish vote, however, was not the only stumbling block. In the Czech Republic concerns were raised relative to the Treaty's Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Czech Republic government was concerned that if they were bound by the terms of said Charter that they would be exposed to a flood of property claims by Germans expelled from their country after World War II. Although this position may have some legitimacy, it also follows the party line of Czech Republic Vadac Klaus who has demonstrated his Eurosceptic concerns regarding the power of the European Union on several prior occasions
. Klaus, anticipating that the Czech constitutional court may rule negatively on his objections, capitulated and became the last of the 27 foreign ministers signing the Lisbon Treaty.
The Lisbon Treaty emerged from the efforts of the European Union leadership to attempt to establish a more workable entity. Concern relative to the balance of power between member nations has existed since the birth of the Common Market which was the predecessor of the European Market. This was a matter that the drafters of the Treaty wanted to address and an issue that created debate prior to its ratification. France, the Netherlands, and Ireland were all in the forefront of the debate on this issue. The framers of the Treaty also hoped that the Treaty would be more transparent and thereby draw in more active participation by the common population in the member states and that through the inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights Europe would become the example for the rest of the world.
The Lisbon Treaty is the last in a long line of treaties that have been used to govern the European Union. It is an amendment to two earlier treaties, the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Since 1993 the member nations have been governed by these two documents and now the Lisbon Treaty has become the prevailing document.
Effects of the Lisbon Treaty
What the long-term effects of the Treaty might be are unknown at the present time. The Treaty has been in effect for less than two years and is still undergoing growing pains but there were profound changes that should impact heavily upon how democracy and human rights operate inside Europe.
The legal framework established through the Lisbon Treaty is extensive and complicated but is designed to expand the European Union's influence in the areas of foreign policy, policing in general but particularly in the areas of organized crime and human trafficking, and the prosecution of international crimes. It is also a goal that the new Treaty will increase the role of the European Parliament, a branch of the European Union, in the day-to-day operation of the Union. The areas where it is hoped that Parliament will increase its role is in monetary matters, immigration policy and security considerations. The new Treaty also empowers the various national Parliaments of the member states to block legislation emanating from the European Parliament if said legislation impinges on the national sovereign of that nation. Further, individual citizens from member nations now have the right to petition the European Union for specific legislation. The process is arduous in that it requires the collection of a million signatures but the right exists thereby expanding the individual rights of the common Union citizen.
The intent of the Lisbon Treaty and all prior treaties since 1993 has been to establish the European Union as the supreme law on the continent but there have been a number of delays in having this occur. For example, for some time it has been legislated that there should be the free movement of services throughout Europe; yet, implementing this legislation has been difficult due to roadblocks being set up by various nations
. A similar delay was experienced in the implementing of free movement between individual nations but it eventually did occur. Similar delays are likely in the implementing of the full range of new rights and obligations under the new Lisbon Treaty.
The new Treaty implements a number of changes in the total operation of the Union. Changes that radically change how the Union will be administered and viewed by the rest of the world but it is the area of establishing and implementing policy that the Union has experienced it greatest difficulty and it is hoped that the new Treaty will cure this deficiency. The hope of the new Treaty is that the Union's influence in the areas of health, culture, tourism, education, sports, security, and overall human rights will increase substantially under the terms of the new Treaty
The Lisbon Treaty is a complex and lengthy document and most of the changes brought about by its ratification relate to European Union institutions and they function. These changes are important as they will hopefully improve the overall operation of the EU and allow for the EU to become more active in matters outside the economic arena. The Treaty permits the Union far more latitude in the foreign affairs, human rights, social policy, and security and a more efficiently operated Union should open the door for greater resources to be directed toward these areas.
It is important to note that Lisbon Treaty does not abolish either the Treaty on European Union (the so-called Maastricht Treaty signed in 1992)
or the Treaty of Rome
signed in 1957 that established the European Community. The new Treaty only amends both documents. These two prior documents established the European Union and remain the governing authority. The Lisbon Treaty, however, did bring some important changes that will directly and indirectly impact human rights in Europe.
The first major change is the creation of an entity entitled the "European Union." Although known by that name for some time the entity was never created as such. The Lisbon Treaty has done that and now the new European Union will operate legally under that name and will replace the former "three pillar" approach under which the European community formerly operated
. Under the "three pillar" the Union was only responsible for the internal and external trade relations (first pillar) of the member nations. The member nations dealt with common foreign and security policies (the second pillar) and police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (third pillar). The Lisbon Treaty now creates a single entity, the European Union, so that now the Union has exclusive, shared or supporting authority with its member nations in all the areas that were formerly broken down into the pillars. The EU will also be responsible for establishing and reviewing all policy considerations in all…