The way is now cleared for a major revamping of the EU institutions to take form. This is aimed at improved decision-making in a union vastly expanded from its original size, now 27 member states. The treaty’s other crowning ambition is to give the EU more impact on the world stage.
Two new jobs are created in the treaty — a full-time President of the Council of EU leaders and a foreign policy chief with a budget and operations staff. This is likely to answer to an old quip, ‘if allies or other interlocutors want to talk to Europe, who do they call?’ Although the President will also provide external representation, this role is mostly to coordinate the work of the Council.
The legislative power of the European Parliament is increased; the codecision procedure with the Council is extended to new areas of policy.
National parliaments are to contribute to the good functioning of the Union through receiving draft EU legislation. Their oversight role in this context is to ensure that policy decisions are taken in the appropriate place, applying the principle of subsidiarity.
The treaty gives binding force to an existing Charter of Fundamental Rights for EU citizens, barring British, Polish and Czech opt-outs. Enough citizens banded together can also initiate legislation by petition. New provisions on civil protection, humanitarian aid and public health also aim to boost the EU’s response ability in the face of security threats.
The treaty also introduces a formal possibility for a country to leave the EU, but the conditions are not specified, and such a case in a Union still expected to expand would need to be negotiated with all the partner members.