The Treaty of Lisbon (initially known as the Reform Treaty) is an international agreement that amends the two treaties which form the constitutional basis of the European Union (EU). The Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the EU member states on 13 December 2007, and entered into force on 1 December 2009. It amends the Maastricht Treaty (1992), known in updated form as the Treaty on European Union (2007) or TEU, and the Treaty of Rome (1957), known in updated form as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (2007) or TFEU. It also amends the attached treaty protocols as well as the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM).
Prominent changes included the move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in at least 45 policy areas in the Council of Ministers, a change in calculating such a majority to a new double majority, a more powerful European Parliament forming a bicameral legislature alongside the Council of Ministers under the ordinary legislative procedure, a consolidated legal personality for the EU and the creation of a long-term President of the European Council and a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The Treaty also made the Union's bill of rights, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, legally binding. The Treaty for the first time gave member states the explicit legal right to leave the EU, and established a procedure by which to do so.
The stated aim of the treaty was to "complete the process started by the Treaty of Amsterdam  and by the Treaty of Nice  with a view to enhancing the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the Union and to improving the coherence of its action". Opponents of the Treaty of Lisbon, such as former Danish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Jens-Peter Bonde, argued that it would centralize the EU, and weaken democracy by "moving power away" from national electorates. Supporters argue that it brings more checks and balances into the EU system, with stronger powers for the European Parliament and a new role for national parliaments.
Negotiations to modify EU institutions began in 2001, resulting first in the proposed Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, which would have repealed the existing European treaties and replaced them with a "constitution". Although ratified by a majority of member states, this was abandoned after being rejected by 55% of French voters on 29 May 2005 and then by 61% of Dutch voters on 1 June 2005. After a "period of reflection", member states agreed instead to maintain the existing treaties and amend them, to bring into law a number of the reforms that had been envisaged in the abandoned constitution. An amending "reform" treaty was drawn up and signed in Lisbon in 2007. It was originally intended to have been ratified by all member states by the end of 2008. This timetable failed, primarily due to the initial rejection of the Treaty in June 2008 by the Irish electorate, a decision which was reversed in a second referendum in October 2009 after Ireland secured a number of concessions related to the treaty.
The need to review the EU's constitutional framework, particularly in light of the accession of ten new Member States in 2004, was highlighted in a declaration annexed to the Treaty of Nice in 2001. The agreements at Nice had paved the way for further enlargement of the Union by reforming voting procedures. The Laeken declaration of December 2001 committed the EU to improving democracy, transparency and efficiency, and set out the process by which a constitution aiming to achieve these goals could be created. The European Convention was established, presided over by former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, and was given the task of consulting as widely as possible across Europe with the aim of producing a first draft of the Constitution. The final text of the proposed Constitution was agreed upon at the summit meeting on 18–19 June 2004 under the presidency of Ireland.
The Constitution, having been agreed by heads of government from the 25 Member States, was signed at a ceremony in Rome on 29 October 2004. Before it could enter into force, however, it had to be ratified by each member state. Ratification took different forms in each country, depending on the traditions, constitutional arrangements, and political processes of each country. In 2005, referendums held in France and the Netherlands rejected the European Constitution. While the majority of the Member States already had ratified the European Constitution (mostly through parliamentary ratification, although Spain and Luxembourg held referendums), due to the requirement of unanimity to amend the treaties of the EU, it became clear that it could not enter into force. This led to a "period of reflection" and the political end of the proposed European Constitution.
In 2007, Germany took over the rotating EU Presidency and declared the period of reflection over. By March, the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, the Berlin Declaration was adopted by all Member States. This declaration outlined the intention of all Member States to agree on a new treaty in time for the 2009 Parliamentary elections, that is to have a ratified treaty before mid-2009.
Already before the Berlin Declaration, the Amato Group (officially the Action Committee for European Democracy, ACED) – a group of European politicians, backed by the Barroso Commission with two representatives in the group – worked unofficially on rewriting the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (EU Constitution). On 4 June 2007, the group released their text in French – cut from 63,000 words in 448 articles in the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe to 12,800 words in 70 articles. In the Berlin Declaration, the EU leaders unofficially set a new timeline for the new treaty:
- 21–23 June 2007: European Council meeting in Brussels, mandate for Intergovernmental Conference (IGC)
- 23 July 2007: IGC in Lisbon, text of Reform Treaty
- 7–8 September 2007: Foreign Ministers’ meeting
- 18–19 October 2007: European Council in Lisbon, final agreement on Reform Treaty
- 13 December 2007: Signing in Lisbon
- 1 January 2009: Intended date of entry into force
On 21 June 2007, the European Council of heads of states or governments met in Brussels to agree upon the foundation of a new treaty to replace the rejected Constitution. The meeting took place under the German Presidency of the EU, with Chancellor Angela Merkel leading the negotiations as President-in-Office of the European Council. After dealing with other issues, such as deciding on the accession of Cyprus and Malta to the Eurozone, negotiations on the Treaty took over and lasted until the morning of 23 June 2007. The hardest part of the negotiations was reported to be Poland's insistence on square root voting in the Council of Ministers.
The European Round Table Of Industrialists (ERT) Members contributed to the preparation of the Lisbon Agenda, which sought to make Europe the ‘most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world’ by the year 2010. But the implementation of the Agenda was less impressive than the declarations made at its adoption by the European Council in March 2000. ERT Members constantly stressed the need for better performance by national governments towards achieving the Lisbon targets within a specified timeframe that otherwise risked remaining beyond Europe's grasp. In subsequent years, ERT regularly contributed to the debate on how to ensure better implementation of the Lisbon Agenda across all EU Member States, including on ways to foster innovation and achieve higher industry investment in Research & Development in Europe.
Agreement was reached on a 16-page mandate for an Intergovernmental Conference, that proposed removing much of the constitutional terminology and many of the symbols from the old European Constitution text. In addition, it was agreed to recommend to the IGC that the provisions of the old European Constitution should be amended in certain key aspects (such as voting or foreign policy). Due to pressure from the United Kingdom and Poland, it was also decided to add a protocol to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (clarifying that it did not extend the rights of the courts to overturn domestic law in Britain or Poland). Among the specific changes were greater ability to opt out in certain areas of legislation and that the proposed new voting system that was part of the European Constitution would not be used before 2014 (see Provisions below).
In the June meeting, the name 'Reform Treaty' also emerged, finally clarifying that the Constitutional approach was abandoned. Technically it was agreed that the Reform Treaty would amend both the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) to include most provisions of the European Constitution, however not to combine them into one document. It was also agreed to rename the treaty establishing the European Community, which is the main functional agreement including most of the substantive provisions of European primary law, to "Treaty on the Functioning of the Union". In addition it was agreed, that unlike the European Constitution where a charter was part of the document, there would only be a reference to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union to make that text legally binding. After the council, Poland indicated they wished to re-open some areas. During June, Poland's Prime Minister had controversially stated that Poland would have a substantially larger population were it not for World War II. Another issue was that Dutch prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende succeeded in obtaining a greater role for national parliaments in the EU decision-making process, as he declared this to be non-negotiable for Dutch agreement.
Portugal had pressed and supported Germany to reach an agreement on a mandate for an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) under their presidency. After the June negotiations and final settlement on a 16-page framework for the new Reform Treaty, the Intergovernmental conference on actually drafting the new treaty commenced on 23 July 2007. The IGC opened following a short ceremony. The Portuguese presidency presented a 145-page document (with an extra 132 pages of 12 protocols and 51 declarations) entitled the Draft Treaty amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community and made it available on the Council of Ministers website as a starting point for the drafting process.
In addition to government representatives and legal scholars from each member state, the European Parliament sent three representatives. These were conservative Elmar Brok, social democratic Enrique Baron Crespo and liberal Andrew Duff.
Before the opening of the IGC, the Polish government expressed a desire to renegotiate the June agreement, notably over the voting system, but relented under political pressure by most other Member States, due to a desire not to be seen as the sole trouble maker over the negotiations.
The October European Council, led by Portugal's Prime Minister and then President-in-Office of the European Council, José Sócrates, consisted of legal experts from all Member States scrutinising the final drafts of the Treaty. During the council, it became clear that the Reform Treaty would be called the 'Treaty of Lisbon', because its signing would take place in Lisbon—Portugal being the holder of the presidency of the Council of the European Union at the time.
At the European Council meeting on 18 and 19 October 2007 in Lisbon, a few last-minute concessions were made to ensure the signing of the treaty. That included giving Poland a slightly stronger wording for the revived Ioannina Compromise, plus a nomination for an additional Advocate General at the European Court of Justice. The creation of the permanent "Polish" Advocate General was formally permitted by an increase of the number of Advocates General from 8 to 11. Despite these concessions and alterations, Giscard d’Estaing stated that the treaty included the same institutional reforms as those in the rejected Constitution, but merely without language and symbols that suggested Europe might have ‘formal political status’. These ‘more symbolic than substantial’ concessions were designed ‘to head off any threat of referenda’ which had killed the Constitution.
At the meeting of the European Council in October 2007, Portugal insisted that the Treaty (then called the 'Reform Treaty') be signed in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. This request was granted, and the Treaty was thus to be called the Treaty of Lisbon, in line with the tradition of European Union treaties. The Portuguese presidency was appointed to the job of organising the programme for a signing ceremony.
The signing of the Treaty of Lisbon took place in Lisbon, Portugal on 13 December 2007. The Government of Portugal, by virtue of holding Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the time, arranged a ceremony inside the 15th-century Jerónimos Monastery, the same place Portugal's treaty of accession to the European Union (EU) was signed in 1985. Representatives from the 27 EU member states were present, and signed the Treaty as plenipotentiaries, marking the end of treaty negotiations. In addition, for the first time an EU treaty was also signed by the presidents of the three main EU institutions.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom did not take part in the main ceremony, and instead signed the treaty separately a number of hours after the other delegates. A requirement to appear before a committee of British MPs was cited as the reason for his absence.
On 20 February 2008, the European Parliament voted in favour of a non-binding resolution endorsing the Lisbon Treaty by 525 votes in favour and 115 against, on the basis of an analysis of the treaty's implications by the Parliament's rapporteurs Richard Corbett and Inigo Mendez de Vigo. They had been the Parliament's rapporteurs on the constitutional treaty.
All EU member states had to ratify the Treaty before it could enter into law. A national ratification was completed and registered when the instruments of ratification were lodged with the Government of Italy. The month following the deposition of the last national ratification saw the Treaty enter into force across the EU.
Under the original timetable set by the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2007, the Treaty was initially scheduled to be fully ratified by the end of 2008, thus entering into force on 1 January 2009. This plan failed however, primarily due to the initial rejection of the Treaty in 2008 by the Irish electorate in a referendum, a decision which was reversed in a second referendum in October 2009. Ireland, as required by its constitution, was the only member state to hold referendums on the Treaty. In the UK, the European Union (Amendment) Bill was debated in the House of Commons on 21 January 2008, and passed its second reading that day by a vote of 362 to 224; Prime Minister Gordon Brown was absent that day; the Bill was proposed to the Commons by David Miliband. The Czech instrument of ratification was the last to be deposited in Rome on 13 November 2009. Therefore, the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December 2009.
The exact impact of the treaty on the functioning of the EU left many questions open (uncertainties which have led to calls for another new treaty in response to the economic crisis in the late 2000s). When its impact is assessed, the biggest winners from Lisbon have been Parliament, with its increase in power, and the European Council. The first months under Lisbon arguably saw a shift in power and leadership from the Commission, the traditional motor of integration, to the European Council with its new full-time and longer-term President. The split between the Commission and European Council presidents involved overlap, potential rivalry and unwieldy compromises, such as both presidents attending international summits, in theory each with their own responsibilities, but inevitably with a considerable grey area. There was some expectation that the posts might be merged—as permitted under the new treaty—in 2014, when their two mandates expired.
Parliament has used its greater powers over legislation, but also for example over the appointment of the Commission to gain further privileges from President Barroso and it used its budgetary powers as a veto over how the External Action Service should be set up. It also applied its new power over international agreements to rapidly block the SWIFT data sharing deal with the US and threatened to do so over a free trade agreement with South Korea.
The redistribution of separated powers was affected by the ratification process. Like the Commission, the Council of Ministers has, relatively, lost power due to Treaty of Lisbon. Its dynamic has also changed as member states have lost their veto in a number of areas. Consequently, they have had to come up with stronger arguments faster in order to win a vote. The Presidency of the Council, which continues to rotate among Member States every six months, has lost influence: the prime minister of the country in question no longer chairs the European Council, and its foreign minister no longer represents the EU externally (that is now done by the High Representative).
As an amending treaty, the Treaty of Lisbon is not intended to be read as an autonomous text. It consists of a number of amendments to the Treaty on European Union ("Maastricht Treaty") and the Treaty establishing the European Community ("Treaty of Rome"), the latter renamed 'Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union' in the process. As amended by the Treaty of Lisbon, the Treaty on European Union provides a reference to the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, making that document legally binding. The Treaty on European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Charter of Fundamental rights thus have equal legal value and combined constitute the European Union's legal basis.
A typical amendment in Treaty of Lisbon text is:
The Commission has published a consolidated text  (in each community language) which shows the previous Treaties as revised by the Treaty of Lisbon.
Fundamental Rights Charter
The fifty-five articles of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union enshrine certain political, social, and economic rights for both European Union citizens and residents, into EU law. It was drafted by the European Convention and solemnly proclaimed on 7 December 2000 by the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission. However its then legal status was uncertain and it did not have full legal effect until the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009.
In the rejected Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe the charter was integrated as a part of the treaty itself. In the Lisbon Treaty, however, the charter is incorporated by reference and given legal status without forming part of the treaties. The EU must act and legislate consistently with the Charter and the EU's courts will strike down EU legislation which contravenes it. The Charter only applies to EU member states as regards their implementation of EU law and does not extend the competences of the EU beyond its competences as defined in the treaties.
The European Central Bank gained the official status of being an EU institution, and the European Council was given the right to appoint presidents of the European Central Bank through a qualified majority vote. On a related topic, the euro became the official currency of the Union (though not affecting opt-outs or the process of Eurozone enlargement).
Under the Treaty of Lisbon, the Court of First Instance has been renamed the General Court. The Civil Service Tribunal and the European Court of Justice (formerly named the Court of Justice of the European Communities, and formally called only Court of Justice after the Treaty of Lisbon), along with the General Court, were established as sub-courts of a new EU institution named the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The jurisdiction of the courts continued to be excluded from matters of foreign policy, though new jurisdiction to review foreign policy sanction measures, as well as certain 'Area of Freedom, Security and Justice' (AFSJ) matters not concerning policing and criminal cooperation, were added.
The treaty has expanded the use of qualified majority voting (QMV) in the Council of Ministers by having it replace unanimity as the standard voting procedure in almost every policy area outside taxation and foreign policy. Moreover, taking effect in 2014, the definition of a qualified majority has changed: a qualified majority is reached when at least 55% of all member states, who comprise at least 65% of EU citizens, vote in favour of a proposal. When the Council of Ministers is acting neither on a proposal of the Commission nor on one of the High Representative, QMV requires 72% of the member states while the population requirement remains the same. However, the "blocking minority" that corresponds to these figures must comprise at least 4 countries. Hence, the voting powers of the member states are based on their population, and are no longer dependent on a negotiable system of voting points. The reform of qualified majority voting (QMV) in the Council was one of the main issues in the negotiation of the Lisbon Treaty.
The earlier rules for QMV, set in the Treaty of Nice and applying until 2014, required a majority of countries (50% / 67%), voting weights (74%), and population (62%). Between 2014 and 2017 a transitional phase is taking place where the new QMV rules apply, but where the old Nice treaty voting weights can be applied when a member state formally requests it. Moreover, from 2014 a new version of the 1994 "Ioannina compromise" allows small minorities of EU states to call for re-examination of EU decisions.
The treaty instructs that Council deliberations on legislation (that include debate and voting) will be held in public (televised), as was already the case in the European Parliament.
The Presidency of the Council of Ministers, rotates among member states every six months, with a "Trio" formed by three consecutive Presidencies in order to provide more continuity to their conduct. However, the Foreign Affairs Council (one configuration of the Council of ministers), is no longer chaired by the representative of the member state holding the Presidency, but rather by the person holding the newly created post of High Representative.
The European Council officially gains the status of an EU institution, thus being separated from the Council of ministers. It continues to be composed of the heads of state or government of the Union's member states along with the (nonvoting) President of the European Commission and its own president.
The President of the European Council is appointed for a two and a half year term in a qualified majority vote of the European Council. A president can be reappointed once, and be removed by the same voting procedure. Unlike the post of President of the European Commission, the appointment of the President of the European Council does not have to reflect the composition of the European Parliament. The president's work involves coordinating the work of the European Council, hosting its meetings and reporting its activities to the European Parliament after each meeting. This makes the president the lynchpin of negotiations to find agreement at European Council meetings, which has become a more onerous task with successive enlargement of the EU to 28 Member States. The president also chairs informal summits of the 19 Member States which use the euro as their currency. Additionally, the president provides external representation to the Union on foreign policy and security matters when such representation is required at the level of heads of state or government (bilateral summits and G8/G20).
Under the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Council is charged with setting the strategic priorities of the Union, and in practice with handling crises. It has a key role in appointments, including the Commission, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the members of the Board of the European Central Bank; the suspension of membership rights; changing the voting systems in the treaties bridging clauses. Under the emergency break procedure, a state may refer contentious legislation from the Council of ministers to the European Council if it is outvoted in the Council of ministers, notwithstanding that it may still be outvoted in the European Council.
The legislative power of the European Parliament increases, as the codecision procedure with the Council of the EU is extended to almost all areas of policy. This procedure is slightly modified and renamed ordinary legislative procedure.
In the few remaining areas, called "special legislative procedures", Parliament now has either the right of consent to a Council of the EU measure, or vice versa, except in the few cases where the old Consultation procedure still applies, wherein the Council of the EU will only need to consult the European Parliament before voting on the Commission proposal. Council is then not bound by the Parliament's position but only by the obligation to consult it. Parliament would need to be consulted again if the Council of ministers deviated too far from the initial proposal.
The Commission will have to submit each proposed budget of the European Union directly to Parliament, which must approve the budget in its entirety.
The Treaty changes the way in which MEP seats are apportioned among member states. Rather than setting out a precise number (as it was the case in every previous treaty), the Treaty of Lisbon gives the power to the Council of the EU, acting unanimously on the initiative of the Parliament and with its consent, to adopt a decision fixing the number of MEPs for each member state. Moreover, the treaty provides for the number of MEPs to be degressively proportional to the number of citizens of each member state. A draft decision fixing the apportionment of MEPs was annexed to the treaty itself and had Lisbon been in force at the time of 2009 European Parliament elections the apportionment would have been: In the meantime, Croatia's seats, when it joins, will be supernumerary.
The number of MEPs will be limited to 750, in addition to the President of the Parliament. Additionally, the Treaty of Lisbon will reduce the maximum number of MEPs from a member state from 99 to 96 (affects Germany) and increases the minimal number from 5 to 6 (affects Malta).
The Treaty of Lisbon expanded the role of Member States' parliaments in the legislative processes of the EU by giving them a prior scrutiny of legislative proposals before the Council and the Parliament can take a position. The Treaty of Lisbon provides for national parliaments "to contribute to the good functioning of the Union" through receiving draft EU legislation, seeing to it that the principle of subsidiarity is respected, taking part in the evaluation mechanisms for the implementation of the Union policies in the area of freedom, security and justice, being involved in the political monitoring of Europol and the evaluation of Eurojust's activities, being notified of applications for EU accession, taking part in the inter-parliamentary cooperation between national parliaments and with the European Parliament.
The Treaty of Lisbon allows national parliaments eight weeks to study legislative proposals made by the European Commission and decide whether to send a reasoned opinion stating why the national parliament considers it to be incompatible with the principle of subsidiarity. National parliaments may vote to have the measure reviewed. If one third (or one quarter, where the proposed EU measure concerns freedom, justice and security) of national parliaments are in favour of a review, the Commission would have to review the measure and if it decides to maintain it, must give a reasoned opinion to the Union legislator as to why it considers the measure to be compatible with subsidiarity.
The Treaty of Lisbon stated that the size of the Commission will reduce from one per member state to one for two thirds of member states from 2014, with an equal rotation over time. This would have ended the arrangement which has existed since 1957 of having at least one Commissioner for each Member State at all times. However, the Treaty also provided that the European Council could unanimously decide to alter this number. Following the first Irish referendum on Lisbon, the European Council decided in December 2008 to revert to one Commissioner per member state with effect from the date of entry into force of the Treaty.
The person holding the new post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy automatically becomes also a Vice-President of the Commission.
In an effort to ensure greater coordination and consistency in EU foreign policy, the Treaty of Lisbon created a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, de facto merging the post of High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy. The High Representative is Vice-President of the Commission, the administrator of the European Defence Agency but not the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers, which becomes a separate post. He or she has a right to propose defence or security missions. In the proposed constitution this post was called the Union Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is in charge of an External Action Service also created by the Treaty of Lisbon. This is essentially a common Foreign Office or Diplomatic Corps for the Union.
Under the Treaty of Lisbon, Member States should assist if a member state is subject to a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster (but any joint military action is subject to the provisions of Article 31 of the consolidated Treaty of European Union, which recognises various national concerns). In addition, several provisions of the treaties have been amended to include solidarity in matters of energy supply and changes to the energy policy within the EU.
The treaty foresees that the European Security and Defence Policy will lead to a common defence for the EU when the European Council resolves unanimously to do so, and provided that all member states give their approval through their usual constitutional procedures. Additionally, the area of defence has become available to enhanced co-operation, potentially allowing for a defence integration that excludes member states with policies of neutrality. Countries with significant military capabilities are envisioned to form a Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence.
Prior to the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the Union comprised a system of three legal pillars, of which only the European Communities pillar had its own legal personality. The Treaty of Lisbon abolished this pillar system, and as a consolidated entity, the European Union succeeded the legal personality of the European Communities. Therefore, the EU is now able to sign international treaties in its own name. The European Union gained for example membership of the World Trade Organization immediately after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, since the European Communities was already a member of that organisation.
In the Lisbon Treaty the distribution of competences in various policy areas between Member States and the Union is explicitly stated in the following three categories:
A proposal to enshrine the Copenhagen Criteria for further enlargement in the treaty was not fully accepted as there were fears it will lead to Court of Justice judges having the last word on who could join the EU, rather than political leaders.
The treaty introduces an exit clause for members wanting to withdraw from the Union. This formalises the procedure by stating that a member state must inform the European Council before it can terminate its membership, and a withdrawal agreement would then be negotiated between the Union and that State, with the Treaties ceasing to be applicable to that State from the date of the agreement or, failing that, within two years of the notification unless the State and the Council both agree to extend this period. There have been several instances where a territory has ceased to be part of the Community, e.g. Greenland in 1985, though so far no member state has ever left. Before the Lisbon Treaty came into force, the question of whether a member state had a legal right to leave the union was unclear. Following the referendum of 23 June 2016, the British Prime Minister gave notice of Britain's intention to leave the European Union on 30 March 2017.
A new provision in the Treaty of Lisbon is that the status of French, Dutch and Danish overseas territories can be changed more easily, by no longer requiring a full treaty revision. Instead, the European Council may, on the initiative of the member state concerned, change the status of an overseas country or territory (OCT) to an outermost region (OMR) or vice versa. This provision was included on a proposal by the Netherlands, which was investigating the future of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba in the European Union as part of an institutional reform process that was taking place in the Netherlands Antilles.
The Lisbon Treaty creates two different ways for further amendments of the European Union treaties: an ordinary revision procedure which is broadly similar to the present process in that it involves convening an intergovernmental conference, and a simplified revision procedure whereby Part three of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which deals with Union policies and internal actions, could be amended by a unanimous decision of the European Council subject to ratification by all member states in the usual manner.
The Treaty also provides for the Passerelle Clause which allows the European Council to unanimously decide to move from unanimous voting to qualified majority voting, and move from a special legislative procedure to the ordinary legislative procedure.
Ordinary revision procedure
Simplified revision procedure
The treaty also allows for the changing of voting procedures without amending the EU treaties. Under this clause the European Council can, after receiving the consent of the European Parliament, vote unanimously to:
- allow the Council of Ministers to act on the basis of qualified majority in areas where they previously had to act on the basis of unanimity. (This is not available for decisions with defence or military implications.)
- allow for legislation to be adopted on the basis of the ordinary legislative procedure where it previously was to be adopted on the basis of a special legislative procedure.
A decision of the European Council to use either of these provisions can only come into effect if, six months after all national parliaments had been given notice of the decision, none object to it.
Under the former third pillar, the Council of Ministers could adopt measures relating to justice and home affairs. These laws did not come within the body of European Community law, and had only the optional jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The Commission could not bring enforcement action against any member state for failing to implement or for failing to correctly implement third pillar measures.
The UK and Ireland have a flexible opt-out from justice and home affairs measures and could choose to participate in them on a case-by-case basis.
Under the Treaty of Lisbon, the limitations on the powers of the Court of Justice and the Commission would be lifted after a transitional period of five years which expired on 30 November 2014.
In order to avoid submitting to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice and to enforcement actions by the Commission, the UK negotiated an opt-out which allows them the option of a block withdrawal from all third pillar measures they had previously chosen to participate in.
In October 2012 the UK government announced that it intended to exercise this opt-out and then selectively opt back into certain measures.
The use of this opt-out by the UK will not affect the UK's flexible opt-out from justice and home affairs measures, or Ireland's identical opt-out.