Reforms included in the Treaty of Lisbon

The new treaty confirms what is already existing and already agreed upon. The biggest changes took place in the EU’s decision making. It was to be clarified. The roles, duties and composition of the institutions was renewed. Now decision making is more efficient even though there are more member states.

More efficient decision making

Now the European Union may make more decisions by simple majority. It may also make decisions in legal and internal matters. Great Britain was given the right not to participate in cooperation in legal, internal and social issues.

Reform of member states’ voting rights

The reform of the member states’ voting rights will take effect in the 2014 elections. After that decisions that require a qualified majority can be made when 55% of the member states and 65% of the Union population support them. It does not mean any major changes to Finland’s voting rights.

More power to the European Parliament

The European Parliament is now in an equal position with the Council when it comes to legislation . The Parliament passes the laws together with the Council. The Parliament also got more say in budgeting.
From the 2014 elections onwards, the Parliament will have a maximum of 751 seats. Finland has 13.

More power to national parliaments

Now national parliaments can stop a reform started by the Commission if they wish to decide on the matter at the national level. The national parliaments’ right to stop the process is decided by simple majority. The Finnish Parliament is closely involved in the EU’s decision making as provided in the Finnish constitution.

EU becomes a legal person

With the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU became a legal person. It means that the Union may sign international agreements. The EU joined the European Convention on Human Rights right away because it had not been possible before.

Charter of Fundament Rights

The Charter of Fundamental Rights that defines the rights of EU citizens became a permanent part of the Treaty. At the same time, the Charter of Fundamental Rights became legally binding. The Union institutions must respect the rights and freedoms of the citizens. The Charter of Fundamental rights also puts the member states under an obligation.

Great Britain and Poland have asked for a derogation. The provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights do not apply to the actions of the national authorities.

New EU posts

The European Council consisting of the heads of the EU member states became an official institution. The European Council got a permanent Chairman who also serves as the President of the European Union. The term of the Chairman is two and a half years.

A representative was appoint for the Union to deal with foreign relations and international meetings. The representative’s official title is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The High Representative, or foreign minister, acts both in the Commission and the Council. The High Representative serves as the President of the EU Foreign Affairs Council. The Presidency changes every 6 months. Member states taken turns in holding the Presidency.

Citizens’ initiative

Citizens’ initiatives can be used to ask the Commission to propose a new bill. To make an initiative, a minimum of one million citizens from the member states are required.