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Main points of the EU's Lisbon Treaty

03 November 2009, 18:24 CET
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(BRUSSELS) - The European Union's wide-ranging Lisbon Treaty, now ratified by all 27 EU member states after eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus put pen to paper Tuesday, is aimed at updating and revitalising the bloc's institutions and replacing its failed constitution.

The way is now clear for the treaty to enter into force on December 1, and discussions can begin in earnest on who should fill the top jobs of EU Council president and foreign policy high representative, which the treaty creates.

Here are some of the main aspects of the treaty:

A treaty not a constitution:

An attempt to give the European Union its first constitution, which would have replaced the EU's key treaties -- the 1957 Treaty of Rome and the treaties of Maastricht (1992), Amsterdam (1996) and Nice (2000) -- was foiled in 2005 when Dutch and French voters rejected the idea in national referendums.

The new "Reform Treaty" will complement and amend its predecessors, not replace them.

New rights for EU citizens:

The treaty makes binding the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, though Britain and Poland have obtained opt-outs, and the Czechs appear likely to have the same guarantee.

A million European citizens will be able to "invite" the European Commission to submit a legislative proposal in a given area.

New policies:

The treaty introduces new objectives such as a common energy policy and strategy on fighting global warming.

On trade policy, fair competition becomes a requirement to assure the proper functioning of the internal market.

On security matters, a "solidarity" clause is introduced in the case of terrorist attacks. A member state which falls victim to an attack or other disaster will receive assistance from other member states, if requested.

Institutions, posts:

In place of the rotating presidency, under which member states spend six months at the helm, a president of the European Council (which comprises the 27 member nations) will be elected by the leaders to a two-and-a-half-year term.

The president will prepare summits and represent the EU on the world stage without, it is hoped, treading on the toes of a new "High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy".

This foreign policy post will combine the roles of the current EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (Javier Solana) and the Commissioner for External Relations (Benita Ferrero-Waldner)

The commission -- the EU's unelected executive arm -- will from 2014 cut the number of policy commissioners in order to increase efficiency.

The treaty also increases the number of policy areas where elected members of the European Parliament have to approve EU legislation, along with the member states, particularly in the sensitive areas of justice, security and immigration.

National parliaments will be given a voice in EU lawmaking for the first time. Each will receive proposals for new EU legislation directly to judge whether a proposal impinges on its competencies.

Voting systems:

The areas of decision-making which can be approved through majority voting, rather than unanimity, will be increased, largely in justice and police affairs.

Britain and Ireland have secured the power to apply decisions in these areas as they wish, but may not hold back their EU partners.

The treaty also introduces a new voting system. Under the new "double majority" qualified voting system, a minimum of 55 percent of member states (currently 15 of 27 countries) representing at least 65 percent of the EU's population must vote in favour of new legislation for it to be passed.

Get-out clause:

The treaty introduces the possibility for a country to leave the European Union under conditions to be negotiated with its partners.

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