Fabian Demicoli

EU Lisbon Treaty

After the strong Yes vote in Ireland last weekend, the EU Treaty ratification shall go ahead if the Treaty is ratified in Czech Republic and Poland, whose parliaments have already approved the Treaty. After failing to ratify the EU Constitution in France and Germany in 2005, the new proposed treaty shall amend previous EU treaty rulebooks, and the EU flag and anthem shall not be formally recognised. So what does Malta stand to gain and lose? The following are some salient points.

Despite the EU Parliament shall have 35 less members, from 785 down to 750, Malta will acquire a Sixth Seat at the European Parliament with the ratification of the treaty. This seat shall be taken up by Joseph Cuschieri. When the sixth seat shall be assigned to Malta is still unknown yet. The treaty is expected to come into force as from January 2010, however, an approval of a procedure by the European Parliament and a new protocol which will have to be ratified by the EU27 states is needed before.

As a corollary of ratifying the treaty, the National Parliament will gain a stronger say in the EU decision-making process. A new right to be informed on the evaluation of policies conducted in the area of freedom, security and justice, has been assigned to the National Parliaments. Furthermore, the Members of Parliament can now be informed on proposals to amend the treaties, and the new candidate countries' application to join the EU. Moreover, together with the European Parliament, the National Parliament acquired rights to control Europol and Eurojust.

Malta will still be able to nominate a Maltese person for the post of the EU Commissioner. Each member state has the right to nominate one Commissioner no matter the size of territory or population. Each Commissioner holds a specific portfolio and is led by the President of the European Commission. A Commissioner is equivalent to a National Minister. Currently, Joe Borg is the Maltese Commissioner whose portfolio includes the Fisheries and Maritime Affairs.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights sets out the range of civil, political, economic and social rights of EU residents. It is divided into six sections, dealing with dignity, freedoms, equality, solidarity, citizen's rights, and justice. It will be legally binding in Malta and other 24 member states apart from the UK and Poland who have opted out.

A European President shall be chosen by EU leaders for a maximum of a 5 year term. The role shall include chairing EU summits, facilitate cohesion and consensus, and represent the EU abroad. This will replace the current systems in which EU leaders rotate into the president's post every six months. Malta's turn would have been during the first six months of 2017.

Now, the member states shall be given the opportunity to preside over EU Councils at a ministerial level for six months on a rotation basis. Within the EU Council, the treaty gives the EU27 the power to take decisions by majority rather unanimous voting in 50 new areas, including asylum and immigration, education, and economic policy. Malta's vote weighting will amount to three votes, one less than Luxembourg.

Malta still has the right to decide solely on taxation, foreign affairs, including sovereignty, defence, and social issues. However, under the EU Treaty Malta together with the EU27 will lose its Veto right in around 50 areas of EU Policy making. The veto gave the right to Malta and the other EU27 states to stop unilaterally a piece of legislation. Despite, this power has been rarely exerted by the EU27, however, it is still considered to be a potential safeguard.

With regards to the Foreign Affairs, the EU will start being represented on an international level through a representative for foreign affairs. Prior to this, the EU worked with a two-post system divided between the current high representative for foreign and security policy and commissioner for external affairs.

 

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