The Treaty of Lisbon establishes the condition to adhere to the European Union. It defines the institutions that will replace the national ones, in other words any Treaty of Lisbon signatory State leaves most of his decision-making to institutions placed above. Unlike Norway and Switzerland, 28 European states have left their independence to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors on economy, foreign relations, defense, money (those on the Euro zone, 19 Members States) and finance. Members States national politicians have now some tools only to have an effect on the life of the citizens they represent because the Union will do that for them.
March 25th 1957 is a red-letter day for pro-European Union (EU). Indeed, the Treaty of Rome then signed by France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg must be seen as the first step towards what we call European Union. The Treaty of Lisbon is the last of a series of 8, each one leading to a deeper commitment to a European government for a larger number of countries. Starting with 6 European countries in 1957, there are currently 28 countries adhering to the same economic policy, the same monetary and financial policy, the same foreign policy, the same budget policy and following the path toward a common defense policy.
Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, rights of persons belonging to minorities, pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men are the values promoted by every single member of the EU. Who could be opposed to such values?
Nevertheless two countries, Norway and Switzerland, refused to sign the Treaty of Lisbon. In fact, they never ratified any of the 8 treaties. Why did they deny being the 29th and the 30th members? Don’t their citizens want to defend those values? Like the other 28 countries members, don’t their citizens want to improve their life?
The purpose of this article is to give an overview of the Treaty of Lisbon in order to understand the consequences of being an EU member, the consequences of leaving decisions in economic policy, monetary policy, foreign policy, budget policy and defense policy to outsiders’ decision-makers. Afterwards, we could see what is left to national decision-makers and why we vote for in national polls.
Treaty of Lisbon
The aim of the EU institutions defined by the Treaty of Lisbon is to replace the national ones in different areas such as economy, politics, education, health, foreign relations, defense, money and finance. These particular areas are critical to the independence of any nation since it gives power to make decisions concerning its citizens’ life. So, let’s have a deeper look at those institutions.
Key areas and institutions
I’m not going to bring a detailed description of EU institutions since I would have to write an article ten times longer. I suggest the reader to have a look at the consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union title III (articles 13 to 19) to have a better knowledge of them.
The European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Commission (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Commission’), the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors provides the institutional framework to the EU members states. Once the treaty is signed, any state agrees to leave the decisions on key areas to others. From now on, those institutions will replace the national governments, the national parliament and the President or Prime Minister on most of the decisions in economy, foreign policy, defense, justice and social policies.
Foreign policy. The Council plays a paramount role on EU-third countries relationship. According to the Article 28.11 “Where the international situation requires operational action by the Union, the Council shall adopt the necessary decisions. They shall lay down their objectives, scope, the means to be made available to the Union, if necessary their duration, and the conditions for their implementation”. Along with the Council, the High Representative plays an important role as well on foreign policy. Appointed by the European Council with the President of the Commission endorsement, his tasks are to organize the coordination of the actions of the Members States in international organizations and at international conferences. The purpose is to uphold the Union’s position when dealing with third countries. (For further details see Art.18.41, Art.341, Art.361 and Art.381).
Defense. Even if the Treaty of Lisbon does not yet propose a European army, nevertheless it creates the “progressive framing of a common defense” (further details in article 24.1, Art.24.21). This coordination is materialized with the creation of ‘the European Defense Agency’ who “shall identify operational requirements, shall promote measures to satisfy those requirements, shall contribute to identifying and, where appropriate, implementing any measure needed to strengthen the industrial and technological base of the defense sector, shall participate in defining a European capabilities and armaments policy, and shall assist the Council in evaluating the improvement of military capabilities” (Art. 42.31). The exception of this submission to the supervision of the European Defense Agency can be applied to those countries “which see their common defense realized in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” (Art.42.21 & Art.42.71). I would like to mention that 22 of the 28 Members States are NATO’s members as well3.
Monetary and Financial policy. European Central Bank ECB coordinates euro coins issues with Members States national central banks. Its basics tasks are defined in Art.1272. Articles 127 to 1332 from the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union pull the monetary tool out to the Member State who signs this treaty.
Economic policy. The economic policy as defined in the Treaty of Lisbon is based on three pillars: absolutely free and competitive market, unification of the economic policy and national budget monitoring. Free and competitive market is the ideology that guides EU economic policy (Art.31 & Art.1272); this affects trade of goods and capital movements. The abolition of trade restrictions between Members States is clearly mentioned, “(the EU) Encourage the integration of all countries into the world economy, including through the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade” (Art.21.2.e1)); see articles2 34, 35, 36 and 37. As for capital movements they have a different treatment, the Treaty goes further since there are absolutely no restrictions. The article 632 clearly states “[…]all restrictions on the movement of capital between Member States and between Member States and third countries shall be prohibited” and is reinforced by the articles 642and 652 which extends it to third countries.
Unification of national economies (article 120 and 1212) is the second major aim of the Treaty. These two articles recall the signatory the EU is guided by the principle of an open market economy with free competitionand that he has to adjust their economy to be lined up with the EU Members States economies and that he will be monitored by the Commission. (Monitoring of Member States budget Art.126.12 & Art.126.22)
Toward a worldwide governance?
The article 21.2 h)  of the consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union “The Union shall define and pursue common policies and actions, and shall work for a high degree of cooperation in all fields of international relations, in order to (…)promote an international system based on stronger multilateral cooperation and good global governance.”
What does it mean? Maybe I get it wrong but it sounds like saying we, signatories of the following treaty, accept to establish worldwide governance in the coming future, we leave all our national decision-making tools to someone else.
Putting aside this sentence, all the Treaty is clearly designed in that way. Signing in the Treaty of Lisbon means loss of independence on the defense, foreign policy, the economy and on the monetary and financial policy, loss of control of the state budget. On a theoretical point of view, the Treaty of Lisbon has many flaws for the vast majority of the population; I think it is important to be aware on the conditions and the consequences from being a European member state in 2014.
Personal thoughts and conclusion
It is important to understand that the European Union under its current shape is not a union of strong nations with identical views who decided to create it to cope with the imperialist US. Quite the opposite, the EU is currently composed by politically weakened nations who gave all their political and economical power to others. Otherwise, why would the White House support the expansion of the Union?
All the values promoted by the Treaty sound very nice but we should wonder if the institutions proposed by the EU truly encourage them. Does the freedom of capital movement encourage them? Does preventing capital discrimination help the people? EU defenders might say we can modify the Treaty if we disagree, it is foreseen in the article 48. Good luck with it!
To conclude, I would say I don’t think the EU is made to help its citizens in spite of its defenders might say. Mainstream Medias, major political parties all claim here in Europe that, without the EU it would be a disaster, a nightmare for any Member State. When you look at the GDP of the last years and the growing debts the European countries are facing, we have the right to be more than suspicious. When you look at Norway (3.5% GDP grows, 3.6% unemployment in 2013) and Switzerland (2.0% GDP grows in 2013, 3.3% unemployment in March 2014) economic results, no wonder why they might never join an EU which is having serious problems on economic, political and social levels.
Two questions arise.
On a theoretical level, we must ask ourselves how 28 countries so different in many aspects can make decisions that make everyone happy.
On a practical level, one should wonder why national politicians in Europe keep making promises during their election campaigns knowing they have not the tools to do anything.
ZNetwork is funded solely through the generosity of its readers.Donate