Strasbourg round-up: MEPs call for treaty of Lisbon to be fully implemented

Written by Jo Leinen, Andrew Duff, Eva Lichtenberger and Helmut Scholz on 12 March 2014 in Special Report
Special Report

Key rapporteurs Jo Leinen, Andrew Duff, Eva Lichtenberger and Helmut Scholz call for the European council to respect the rights and position of the EU's only democratically elected body, as laid out in the Lisbon treaty.

Jo Leinen is parliament's S&D group shadow rapporteur on the implementation of the treaty of Lisbon with respect to the European parliament

The Lisbon treaty was a huge step forward for Europe's democracy, putting the European parliament on equal footing with the council in most policy areas and giving it more rights in the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements. However, the new rules must be fully implemented and respected, which makes the adjustment of the working arrangements between the EU institutions necessary. This includes the improvement of the content and implementation of existing inter-institutional agreements, as well as the conclusion of new ones. Also, to safeguard parliament's prerogatives in international negotiations, it must have timely and comprehensive access to all relevant documents in order to be able to formulate an informed opinion.

Furthermore, this year one of the most visible new powers of the parliament will be applied for the first time: the election of the president of the commission. We expect from the European council that it fully respects the new procedure laid down in the Lisbon treaty and accepts that parliament elects the head of the European executive and is thus the deciding institution. We call on the heads of state and government to nominate their candidate on the basis of the result of the European elections after holding appropriate consultations with parliament, thus honouring the will of the citizens and the principles of parliamentary democracy.


Andrew Duff is parliament's ALDE group shadow rapporteur on the implementation of the treaty of Lisbon with respect to the European parliament

Although the treaty of Lisbon has only been in force for a little over four years, we have already seen its big impact on the work of MEPs and on the place the European parliament has in the inter-institutional balance of power. In most respects, the outcome is positive, although parliament as an institution needs a higher calibre leadership, especially in its committees, to see that its potential is fulfilled. In particular, the quality of its own law making leaves something to be desired: better management of its timetable, tougher impact assessment, more group discipline and a serious effort to monitor the effects of law it passes.

The union's biggest constitutional problem, however, is not the relative weakness of the parliament but the real weakness of the executive. Without a concentration of executive powers in a reformed European commission, the EU will remain incapable of squaring up to the challenges it faces at home and abroad. This will be the task of the next convention which I expect to be called to revise the treaties after the UK general elections in 2015. Treaty change must not be avoided if the EU is to remain a regime based on the rule of law, and if it is to emerge from the long financial crisis more united and democratic. The current fascinating experiment of party political spitzenkanditaten (frontrunner) is part of the process of preparing the EU for the new critical phase of European integration.


Eva Lichtenberger is parliament's legal affairs committee opinion rapporteur on the implementation of the treaty of Lisbon with respect to the European parliament

The Lisbon treaty was intended as a step forward in ensuring that decision making procedures were more transparent and democratic, reflecting the treaty commitment to a closer union among the peoples of Europe. However, the achievement of this democratic aim is undermined if EU institutions do not respect one another's competences, the procedures laid down in the treaties and the principle of loyal cooperation.

Although the council approved the Lisbon treaty, they do not accept the new rights bestowed upon the parliament. The parliament has still had to fight over several cases where the Lisbon treaty expanded its competences, with the fight carried through many decisions since its implementation. In fact there is a power struggle going on between parliament and council. One of these fights was during the final phase in decision about the European patent. The council deleted the main three paragraphs of the European patent dossier after an agreement had already been reached, demonstrating that its lack of desire to treat the parliament as an equal partner. Another example is the case of the child abduction dossiers, where the council created an artificial conflict about competences - leaving parliament in a dead end and working at the expense of abducted children.

These useless conflicts about competences are often fought at the expense of important and non-controversial dossiers which could easily improve the lives of Europe's citizens. We spent a lot of precious time fighting over competences we already have been given, time which could be better spent on improving the European Union.


Helmut Scholz is parliament's GUE/NGL group shadow rapporteur on the implementation of the treaty of Lisbon with respect to the European parliament

At the end of a legislature, it can become difficult to distinguish whether certain reports are trying to make a serious analysis of developments or whether they reflect the already underway campaign for the European elections in May. The report discussed in parliament's constitutional affairs committee on the impact of the implementation of the Lisbon treaty could be seen in this respect.

Indisputably the Lisbon treaty granted parliament extended competencies, but without making it, however, an equal co-legislator alongside the council and without putting the system of the division of power in the European Union back on its feet.

In recent years MEPs have been largely ignored by the council and the member states in all the central issues of further development of the EU - with parliament either blackmailed or deliberately prevented from active participation. Solutions to solving the crisis were settled deliberately outside of EU law.

I think a serious analysis of this situation should have been the starting point for this report. This would have narrowed the report's scope itself and, in the light of upcoming necessary treaty change, would focus on solving problems which were clearly visible or were knowingly overlooked in the past.

But, the report contains some quite strong demands, such as that the commission should be obliged to take up all the proposals of the parliament in its legislative work. It is raising the demand that parliament needs to develop his own abilities to put impact assessments of policies forward and is speaking about the need for permanent monitoring of human rights violations.

But, unfortunately, the report is not willing to come to the heart of the matter: that the current key debate - from the perspective of parliament - must address the still open issue of democratic control of the EU executive and with which instruments it exercises this control into binding obligations to comply with existing law. If this is the most important role of the parliament as counter-power, then it is quite amazing how much attention the report puts on the question of electoral procedures of the EU commission.

At the same time it also leaves open most of the other urgent conclusions for necessary principal democratic renewals of the EU system and the strengthening of the community approaches and methods in the interest of the citizens of all 28 EU member states.

About the author

Jo Leinen is parliament's S&D group shadow rapporteur on the implementation of the treaty of Lisbon with respect to the European parliament

Andrew Duff is parliament's ALDE group shadow rapporteur on the implementation of the treaty of Lisbon with respect to the European parliament

Eva Lichtenberger is parliament's legal affairs committee opinion rapporteur on the implementation of the treaty of Lisbon with respect to the European parliament

Helmut Scholz is parliament's GUE/NGL group shadow rapporteur on the implementation of the treaty of Lisbon with respect to the European parliament

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