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European Union: Reform Treaty

(Nov. 2, 2007) On October 26, 2007, the European Union agreed on the text of the Reform Treaty, otherwise known as the Lisbon Treaty, which replaces the EU Constitution rejected in 2005 by France and the Netherlands. The treaty will be formally signed by the 27 EU Member States in Lisbon, Portugal, on December 13, 2007. Subsequently, it must be ratified within a year by all Members in conformity with their constitutional traditions. The Reform Treaty, if ratified, will come into effect in January 2009.

The Treaty introduces an EU presidential term of two-and-a-half years that will in effect replace the current rotating presidency; strengthens the role of the Parliament; and removes the veto powers of EU Members in certain areas, including terrorism issues. The European Court of Justice will gain more power in the fields of justice and home affairs.

At the end of the negotiations, Bulgaria, Italy, and Poland appeared to have been triumphant in winning certain concessions. Bulgaria insisted on spelling the word euro as evro. It was finally agreed upon that the translated versions of legal documents and the Lisbon Treaty in Bulgarian will use evro. The Italian government fought to ensure that it be accorded the same number of Euro-deputies as France and the United Kingdom; the final text was changed accordingly. In order to incorporate this change while preserving the 750 overall limit on the number of Euro deputies, it was decided that the President of the European Parliament will not be considered a member. Poland insisted on reviving an old clause of the EU Constitution that had been rarely used, the so-called Ioannina clause. This clause provides for a mechanism that permits countries to block an EU decision for up to two years. It ultimately was not included in the text of the Reform Treaty but in a declaration. (Reform Treaty, EUROPA, (last visited Oct. 30, 2007) [this site has hyperlinked key documents, press releases, speeches, and useful links].)