Reviewing the Lisbon Treaty
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 16th March, 2011
The London branch of the European Movement decamped to my home district of Mile End last night, for a seminar on the Lisbon Treaty 16 Months On. Valsamis Mitsilegas, Professor of European Criminal Law at Queen Mary University of London (which hosted the event) emphasized how the Treaty stresses core European values, notably a respect for fundamental rights, the rule of law, and democracy, but much of his presentation was about the specific area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA). Since Lisbon, JHA has been subject to more qualified majority voting and co-decision (in which the European Parliament has a say in decision-making, not just the Council of Ministers) than was the case in the past. He cited three areas in which there could be said to have been a particular transfer of sovereignty from the national to a European level, namely economic migration and the status of third country nationals; substantive criminal law, including the definition of criminal acts; and judicial cooperation, building on earlier experience of the European Arrest Warrant.
The other speaker at the seminiar was Richard Corbett, a former Labour Member of the European Parliament who now works for the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy. He argued that the main objective of the Lisbon Treaty was to make the workings of the European Union and its institutions more effective and more democratic. As part of the improved efficiency, the role of the Council President had been enhanced in three main ways: (1) the term of office of the person concerned was extended from six months (non-renewable) to two-and-a-half years (with the possibility of one renewal); (2) the incumbent now does the job full-time, rather than in addition to what was often a heavy national, ministerial responsiblity; (3) there is a proper secretariat in Brussels to assist him.