The Path to the EU Reform
The Path to the Reform Treaty 2007
In December 2001, the heads of government of the EU Member States convened a European Convention headed by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing with the mandate to work out a comprehensive reform. The Convention was attended by representatives of the Member States’ governments and the accession candidates, representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the national parliaments. Between February 2002 and July 2003, the Convention prepared a draft for a Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, which was adopted by the Government Conference in July 2004.
The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe was to supersede the EC Treaty and the Treaty on European Union and provide the European Union with a uniform structure and a legal personality. In Austria, the Treaty was ratified in mid-May 2005 by a parliamentary decision (a vote of 181:1 in the National Council and 59:3 in the Federal Council). After the Treaty was rejected in two referendums held in France (end of May 2005) and the Netherlands (early June 2005), the EU-wide process concerning the ratification of this Treaty was discontinued. By that time, a total of 18 states – a clear majority in the EU – had ratified the Constitutional Treaty. Romania and Bulgaria adopted the Treaty upon their accession to the European Union.
During a subsequent phase of reflexion the EU sought a way out of its difficult situation following the negative outcome of the referendums. Austria, which held the Council Presidency during the first half of 2006, succeeded in its endeavours to revive the stagnating reform process.
In the Berlin Declaration, which was signed on 25 March 2007 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaties of Rome at an informal summit of the 27 heads of state and government, the latter expressed their will to provide the EU with a new contractual basis until the elections to the European Parliament are held in 2009.
To achieve this objective the European Council at its summit on 21 and 22 June 2007, decided on a precise mandate for negotiations on a Reform Treaty.
On 23 July, the Government Conference started its work aimed at implementing the mandate and elaborating a definitive draft treaty. The negotiations were successfully completed at the EU Summit on 18-19 October in Lisbon, with the heads of state and government as well as the foreign ministers of the EU Member States signing the Treaty on 13 December in Lisbon. This is why the EU Reform Treaty is officially called the “Treaty of Lisbon”.
The Treaty now has to be ratified by the individual Member States. It will enter into force only after it has been ratified by all Member States.