Oct 2 The European Union's hopes of greater
global clout centred on Ireland on Friday as voting started in a
referendum to ratify the Lisbon Treaty.
A year ago, Irish voters rejected the treaty, a watered-down
version of the constitution that was vetoed by French and Dutch
voters in 2005. The treaty is designed to give the bloc stronger
leadership, a more effective foreign policy and a fairer
Here are some of the main points of the 250-page treaty.
* INSTITUTIONS: EU leaders will choose a president of the
European Council for a renewable 2-1/2 year term, to strengthen
the system of rotating presidencies.
-- A powerful new foreign policy chief, at the head of an EU
foreign service, will give the bloc a greater say on the world
stage. The High Representative will answer to EU governments but
also be vice-president of the European Commission and manage the
EU executive's large external aid budget.
-- The Eurogroup of finance ministers of countries that
share the euro single currency will be formalised for the first
time and will elect a chairman for a renewable 2-1/2-year term.
-- Member states will benefit from a NATO-style mutual
defence clause in the event that one of them is attacked.
-- The European Court of Justice will be given more power by
being allowed to rule on whether national legislation on justice
and home affairs is compatible with EU laws, except for Britain
and Ireland, which secured opt-outs.
-- The European Commission, the EU's executive, will have
fewer members from 2014. Each of the EU's 27 nations now
appoints a commissioner but the size will be capped at two
thirds of the number of member states.
-- The number of seats in the European Parliament will be
increased to 751 from 736.
* VOTING: EU decision-making will continue to be based on
the weighted voting system agreed in the 2000 Nice Treaty until
-- After that, voting will be based on a "double majority"
system requiring 55 percent of member states representing 65
percent of the EU population to pass a decision.
-- From 2014 to 2017 any country can ask to revert to the
old rules in any vote. States just short of a blocking minority
may invoke a mechanism to delay EU decisions for several months.
-- The treaty allows decision-making in more policy areas by
majority voting, notably in justice and home affairs. Foreign
and defence policy, tax matters and EU budget and revenue
decisions will continue to require unanimity.
-- Britain and Ireland won the right to opt out of closer
police and justice cooperation, but not to stop other member
states moving ahead without them.
-- National parliaments will be given a say in drafting EU
laws. They will review draft proposals, and if one third of them
reject it, the European Commission will have to change it.
* CITIZENS' RIGHTS: The treaty gives binding force to an
existing Charter of Fundamental Rights in all member states
except Britain and Poland, which won opt-outs.
-- Britain did not want provisions such as a broadly defined
right to strike, the subject of bitter labour conflicts in the
1980s -- to be imposed on it from outside.
-- Poland's previous right-wing government said it would
respect labour provisions, but it needed exemptions to ensure
that in the future the EU does not force it to change its laws
on family and morality, such as on abortion.
* POLICIES: The treaty introduces as objectives a common
energy policy and fighting climate change.
-- The treaty introduces a formal possibility for a country
to leave the EU under negotiated terms.
-- One million EU citizens may ask the European Commission
in a petition to draft legislation in a given area.
* SECURITY: Increased security for all: the Union will get
an extended capacity to act on freedom, security and justice,
which will bring direct benefits in terms of the it's ability to
fight crime and terrorism.
-- New provisions on civil protection, humanitarian aid and
public health also aim at boosting the Union's ability to
respond to threats to the security of European citizens.
-- The treaty also provides that the EU and its member
states act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a member state
is victim of an attack or a natural or man-made disaster.
Sources: Reuters/EU website europa.eu/lisbon_treaty