Lisbon Treaty

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Modernising the European Union

The Treaty of Lisbon establishes the new overarching institutional and legal framework for the European Union. The Treaty was signed in 2007 and came into force in 2009. It defines what the EU can and cannot do, and what means it can use. The Treaty sets out a stable institutional system that means decisions can be taken quicker, more transparently, with better democratic control and with a strengthened respect for decisions being taken at the appropriate level.

The Treaty of Lisbon replaces previous Treaties: the Single European Act and the Treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice. The revision of these treaties was deemed necessary to ensure an efficient and democratic functioning of the EU after the accession of several new member states.

Major provisions

  • A more democratic and transparent Europe (strengthened role for the European Parliament; greater involvement of national parliaments; stronger voice for citizens; recognition of the possibility for a Member State to withdraw);
  • A more efficient Europe (extension of qualified majority voting to new policy areas; creation of the office of President of the European Council; increase in EU’s competency to act in policy areas such as energy policy, public health, civil protection, climate change etc.);
  • A Europe of rights and values, freedom, solidarity and security (Charter of Fundamental Rights to enter European primary law; greater solidarity if a Member State is the victim of a terrorist attack or a natural or man-made disaster);
  • Europe as an actor on the global stage (new High Representative for the EU in Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; new European External Action Service; Progress in European Security and Defence Policy).

The Lisbon Treaty and the environment

The Treaty of Lisbon states that one of the Union’s objectives is to work for the sustainable development of Europe based, in particular, on a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. Sustainable development is also affirmed as one of the fundamental objectives of the Union in its relations with the wider world.

The environment is one of the spheres of competence shared between the Union and the Member States. When the Union intervenes in this area, it must contribute to the pursuit of clear objectives: preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment; protecting human health; promoting prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources; promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems.

Climate change is among the biggest environmental, social and economic challenges currently facing mankind. With the Treaty of Lisbon, combating climate change on an international level becomes a specific objective of EU environmental policy. The Treaty of Lisbon adds the support of international action for fighting climate change to the list of objectives defining environmental policy at EU level.

For more details, see the Treaty of Lisbon website.