The Treaty of Lisbon was the last major amendment that concluded the institutional process of reform of the European Union to ensure that the EU is fit for the challenges of the 21st century, even if further enlarged. The Reform Treaty is an amendment of the two treaties that form the constitutional basis of the European Union.
The Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the heads of state and government of the European Union on 13 December 2007. It had to be ratified by all 27 member states in order to enter into force. After the negative outcome of the Irish referendum on 12 June 2008, the heads of state and government agreed at the European Council in June 2008 to continue the ratification procedures while analysing the situation at the same time.
At the European Council on 11 and 12 December 2008, Ireland was granted legal guarantees to take account of the concerns expressed in the referendum. It was also promised that the European Commission would not be reduced in size, not even after 2014, if the Treaty was to come into force. When the next referendum was held in Ireland on 2 October 2009, 67.13% of the voters were in favour of the Lisbon Treaty.
The Treaty entered into force on 1 December 2009. In Austria, the Reform Treaty was thoroughly reviewed by the Constitutional Committee of the National Council and external experts. The National Council adopted the Treaty on 9 April with a clear majority of 151 votes in favour and 27 dissenting votes. In the next step, the Treaty was discussed at the Committee for Constitution and Federalism of Austria's Federal Council which gave its approval on 24 April. The Austrian deed of ratification was signed by Austrian President Heinz Fischer on 28 April and deposited in Rome on 13 May 2008 after Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer had set his hand to the deed.
The institutional changes – such as the establishment of a long-term President of the European Council and the creation of the new office of the "High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy" supported by the European External Action Service – ensure a more pronounced coherence of external action, increase the visibility of European interests on an international level and make it possible for the EU to voice its interests more loudly.
The application of qualified majority is extended. As from 1 November 2014, decisions of the Council will need a "double majority", taking into account both the equality of member states and the equality of the citizens. The Lisbon Treaty also strengthened the European Parliament's role of co-legislator and extended the rights of national parliaments with regard to EU legislation.