This treaty is a mess, but it will free Europe to do more important things

In itself, the treaty will do nothing to convince Europe’s citizens, or the rest of the world, of what the EU is good for. But it will help the EU to do things that may convince them.


Compared with the US’s inspiring constitution, the Lisbon reform treaty reads more like a manual for a forklift truck


The Guardian, 13 December, 2007

When the leaders of the European Union (except for the curmudgeonly latecomer Gordon Brown) gather this morning at Lisbon’s Jerónimos monastery, to sign what was once intended to be a European constitution, they will be congregating in a glorious building in Portugal’s distinctive Manueline style, they will be welcomed by a prime minister called Socrates, and they will be endorsing a dog’s dinner.

If I were them, I’d concentrate on the architecture, and the good lunch afterwards, in the former riding school of a royal palace. Wonderful city, Lisbon. Pity about the treaty. In the English version I have downloaded from the official website of the European Union, it has 175 pages of treaty text, 86 pages of accompanying protocols, a 25-page annexe, renumbering the articles in existing treaties, and a 26-page “final act”, which includes no fewer than 65 separate “declarations”. And that’s just the English version; it will be disseminated in all the 23 official languages of the EU and – a detail buried in declaration 16 – in several non-official ones as well. Since the mere printing of the treaty in all these languages will require the destruction of several forests, it is hard to reconcile with its own commitment, in a new Article 2, to protecting the environment.

Many of the qualifying declarations are the result of interventions by Europe’s awkward squad, which at the time the treaty was negotiated consisted of Britain and Poland under the Kaczynski twins, and now consists of Britain. Several of them are the result of translation into euro-legalese of Gordon Brown’s “red lines”, designed to protect him from Eurosceptic onslaught and save him from a referendum. (Denmark has just helped too, by deciding not to have a referendum.) They include pesky and largely pointless reservations about what should be one of the main benefits of this treaty – mechanisms for a stronger, better coordinated European foreign policy.

Elsewhere, 16 member states declare (number 52) that they still like the EU’s symbols: its flag, anthem and motto (“United in diversity,” in case you had forgotten), the euro and Europe Day on May 9. Well, bully for them. The list of signatories does not include France. Does this mean France disapproves of these symbols? And if we are “united in diversity”, why do only 16 out of 27 member states unite to endorse this motto?

Continue reading on Guardian Online.


The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.


Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

We will store your email address and gather analytics on how you interact with our mailings. You can unsubscribe or opt-out at any time. Find out more in our privacy notice.