Treaty of Lisbon and 2004 Constitutional Treaty Comparison

Before considering the differences between the contents of the Treaty of Lisbon and the failed 2004 Constitutional Treaty, not least because in the views of many this could be a short discussion, it seems prudent to briefly consider why it was felt necessary that any change to what was then, and in fact still is now, the status quo was required.

At the conference of Nice, in 2000, a declaration was made as a result, in part, due to the agreement between Member States that the way should be opened for the expansion of the Community to allow entrance of a number of new States to the Community[1]. The conference felt that a number of points needed to be considered and addressed. There were four points raised for discussion namely:

  • how to establish and monitor a more precise delimitation of powers between the European Union and Member States, reflecting the principle of subsidiarity.
  • the status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union…
  • a simplification of the Treaties…
  • the role of national parliaments in the European architecture.[2]

These points were considered in December 2001 in Laeken in Belgium where a declaration was made in respect of how it was felt the Union needed to proceed in order to ensure a successful future[3]. The Laeken Declaration drew deeply on history and the divisions which had been caused, in the main, by the Second World War. It saw that the future and unified Europe would expunge those divisions and pave a bright future for the Union as a whole.

The resultant Constitutional Treaty set out how it was felt that the Union could proceed as a defined unit. The coverage of its abrupt failure has been comprehensive with many views expressed as to reasons for this. Some believed that it was erroneous to even consider a document of this kind in relation to Europe, arguing that the situation in place worked sufficiently well[4]. Whilst others were critical of its contents believing that it was a step too far in the direction if a federal Europe and others believed that its failure was the result of an underlying suspicion of the Union as whole in many member states[5]. Whatever the reasons behind its failure, and it is likely to be a combination of all of the expressed views, the process towards some kind of constitutional document continued.

Following the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in referenda in France and the Netherlands and the likely imminent rejection in other states including possibly the United Kingdom, a halt was placed on proceedings and a period of reflection was implemented in which Member States were encouraged to enter into debate and discussion with their citizens in an attempt to pave a way forwards. This process took place during the remainder of 2004 and 2005, and then in 2006, Germany was commissioned by the European Council to assess the situation with regards to the Constitutional Treaty. Following this, in June 2007 the ‘Reform Treaty’ was introduced and this was developed over the next year or so and, because the European Union Presidency was held by Portugal at the end of 2007, was renamed as the Treaty of Lisbon. This treaty like the Constitutional Treaty before it required ratification by all Member States. This was mostly achieved, but Ireland, the only Member State whose constitution requires a referendum before ratifying the Treaty, returned a no vote in that referendum. The reasons for this will be discussed below, but at the current time the constitution of the European Union, or lack thereof, remains as it did in 2000 following the Treaty of Nice.

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