After the polemic Irish and Czech ratification, the treaty today entered into force. It will increase democratic accountability by enhancing European Parliament's decision-making power and creating a single voice representing Europe in its external relations.
Why does Europe need the Lisbon Treaty?
The European Union (EU) of twenty-seven members has been operating with rules designed for an EU of fifteen member states. To realise its full potential, the European Union needs to modernise and reform.
At the same time, there is increasing support for the EU to work together on issues that affect us all, such as climate change, energy security and international terrorism. As the EU has grown and its responsibilities have changed, it makes sense to adapt the framework it operates in so that the EU has the means to tackle today's and tomorrow’s challenges.
In particular, the Lisbon Treaty will lead to greater efficiency in the decision-making process, increased democratic accountability, by associating the European Parliament and national parliaments, and increased coherence externally. All of these improvements will equip the EU to better defend the interests of its citizens on a day-to-day basis.
Examples of benefits for European citizens
· A right for citizens to make a request to the Commission for it to propose a new initiative (‘European citizens initiative’)
· Better protection for citizens through the new status given to the charter of fundamental rights
· Diplomatic and consular protection for all EU citizens when travelling and living abroad
· Mutual assistance against natural or man-made catastrophes inside the Union, such as flooding and forest fires
· New possibilities for dealing with the cross-border effects of energy policy, civil protection and combating serious cross-border threats to health
· Common action on dealing with criminal gangs who smuggle people across frontiers
The internal market
The chapter on the internal market contains seven sections (establishment of the internal market, free movement of persons and services, free movement of goods, capital and payments, rules on competition, fiscal provisions and common provisions). Although almost all the provisions of this chapter already feature in the EC Treaty, it should be noted that these articles have been reorganised in a single chapter.
Two specific policy areas move from unanimity to QMV: intellectual property rights (but note that unanimity will continue to apply to the issue of linguistic regimes) and mutual recognition of professional qualifications.
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