The Lisbon Treaty: A New European Union, A New Transatlantic Relationship?

By Donfried, Karen | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Lisbon Treaty: A New European Union, A New Transatlantic Relationship?


Donfried, Karen, Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly


Mr. Chairman, I wish to begin by thanking you for the opportunity to testify before the Subcommittee on the implications for future transatlantic relations of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty.1 It is a distinct pleasure for me to participate with you and the other distinguished Members of this Subcommittee in today's discussion of the relationship between the United States and the European Union (EU) going forward. I would like to request that my statement be included in the record.

The New Treaty The European Union has arrived. After years of treaty revision, following decades of institutional restructuring, the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on December 1, 2009.2 At its core, the Lisbon Treaty seeks to improve how an EU consisting of 27 member states functions. The European Union, with its 500 million citizens, now replaces and succeeds the European Community. This long-awaited change even touched our capital city in a concrete, if small, way. The Delegation of the European Commission to the United States became the Delegation of the European Union to the United States. Mr. Chairman, your predecessor on this subcommittee, Congressman Wexler, helped unveil that new name plate. Beyond the glint of a new plaque, what does the end of this long focus on the EU's internal organization mean for Washington? The hope in the United States is that the European Union will now look beyond Europe and capitalize on its more effective, efficient decision-making structures and institutional set-up to help the United States meet the many global challenges confronting countries on both sides of the Atlantic.

The New Leadership

Of the many changes brought about by the Lisbon Treaty, the news that has captured headlines has been the creation of two new leadership positions: President of the European Council, and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The speculation was intense as to which politicians might be in the running or leading in the race for these slots. Jose Manuel Barroso, the recently re-elected President of the European Commission, presented Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt, in his role heading Sweden's EU Presidency, with the humorous gift of a Rubik's cube to congratulate him on having solved the puzzle of how to win consensus among the 27 heads of state on the new EU appointees. That puzzle consisted of finding just the right mix among political groupings, member state geography and size, and gender. The European Council will now benefit from a full-time President. Former Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy was elected by the member states to the post for a term of two and a half years, which may be renewed once. This position replaces the rotating Presidency, which saw a different member state chair the European Council every six months. Under the old system, each member reveled in having a spell at the EU's helm, but the rotation was disruptive, causing a lack of continuity of priorities and purpose. According to the treaty, Mr. Van Rompuy's primary responsibility will be to "chair" and "drive forward" the work of the European Council and work to "facilitate cohesion and consensus within the European Council." He will also represent EU leaders on the global stage. The second new position is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Baroness Catherine Ashton was appointed by the European Council for this post, with the agreement of the President of the Commission. She will receive the consent of the European Parliament when it meets in January to vote on the entire Commission. She has served for the past year as EU Trade Commissioner and proved herself to be a fast learner and skilled negotiator. Her five-year term of office coincides with that of the Commission. Her new role combines three existing functions. First, she will serve as the Council's representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP); this was the position previously held by former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana. …

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The Lisbon Treaty: A New European Union, A New Transatlantic Relationship?
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