From the ample media coverage and the numerous informative discussions organised under the auspices of universities, government institutions, and non-governmental organisations in recent years, it would seem that every citizen of Latvia has heard of the Lisbon Treaty. However, even if Latvians tend to recognise the term and acknowledge that the Treaty affects everyone in every EU member state, relatively few are sufficiently familiar with the Treaty’s content to make an informed comment about it and even fewer have actually read the entire document.
The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty had limited coverage in Bulgaria and provoked no major debate in Bulgarian society. This trend is inherited from the pre-accession period when an almost complete lack of public attention to the EU constitutional debate and the following ratification crisis prevailed. The few interested media publications have commented on the entry in force of the Lisbon Treaty mainly in reference to Bulgaria’s deficiencies as a new member state in fulfilling its obligations and the remedies that the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union could bring to that situation with new provisions in the areas of freedom, security and justice. Special attention is paid to the further federalisation of the Union through the reinforcement of the EU criminal justice system that will bring about a “more effective prosecution of criminals and will guarantee individuals’ rights more effectively in free movement Europe”.
However, the changing role of the European Parliament within the EU institutional architecture was intensively discussed following the unsuccessful hearing of the then Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Rumiana Jeleva as commissioner designate.
Gesa-Stefanie Brincker and Jochen Eisenburger
Having originally been one of the supporters of the creation of this new post of a President of the European Council in order to give the European Union (EU) a face and the work of the European Council more continuity and coherence, the German government in the end only supported a rather unimpressive politician to fulfil this important and demanding position. Thus, it became clear that the Merkel government did not want to install a personality ambitious to dominate EU policy making and able to attract a lot of media attention.
Spain chaired the EU Council of ministers during the first semester of 2010, thus completing the first rotating presidency of the EU to be held under the Lisbon Treaty. From an institutional point of view – and much more from a substantive point of view, as is analysed in other sections of this EU-27 Watch report considering the rough economic circumstances of Europe and Spain – the task was not easy at all.
First of all, the Spanish Presidency was responsible for the implementation of very important innovations included in the new Treaty, such as the launching of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the approval of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) or the way itself in which the rotating presidency exercises its functions: a completely new scheme of functions with less political leeway and media visibility, but with a greater need to ensure coordination of the entire inter-institutional system.
Secondly, even if the two new permanent EU top jobs – the President of the European Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy – had already been appointed in November 2009 under the Swedish Presidency, the definition of the role and the goals of both Herman Van Rompuy and, particularly, Catherine Ashton remained unclear until the first months of 2010.
Nicoleta Athanasiadou, Costas Melakopides and Christos Xenophontos
Six months since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force, the majority of Cypriot citizens, as well as a number of Cypriot politicians, have not yet clearly comprehended the changes this Treaty has brought into the EU’s decision-making process. Once again, the explanation seems to rest with the fact that the overwhelming, daily and anxious preoccupation of the political classes and the public opinion of the Republic of Cyprus centres on following the vicissitudes of the country’s “existential problem” (i.e., the military occupation), including the protracted bi-communal negotiations for its settlement in a fair and viable manner.
Luis Pais Antunes
The instability which resulted from the new political scenario together with the worsening of economic and social conditions clearly marked the first semester of 2010 and, most probably, will continue to be at the centre of Portuguese politics until next year’s summer. As a result of this, the European debate in Portugal was far from active in most recent times and, to a large extent, limited to Europe’s response to the economic and financial turmoil.
Initial reaction to the appointments of Herman Van Rompuy, as the new President of the European Council, and of Catherine Ashton, as the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, was far from enthusiastic. Some spoke about “perplexity” and “shock” all over Europe, while others considered that the real problem did not lie in the personalities which were chosen but in the Treaty of Lisbon itself, as it did not simplify the functioning of European institutions, but instead added new European top representatives to the existing ones, i.e., the President of the Commission and the head of state or government of the member state holding each rotating presidency.
The news about the Lisbon Treaty in Macedonia was followed with great attention. Macedonia has been a candidate country since 2005 and has been praised for its progress in the reforms in the last two Progress Reports of the EU Parliament. After the news about the Lisbon Treaty, the Macedonian media and public opinion have turned to positive and hopeful expectations. Although overshadowed by the internal issues and the overall debate about the EU integration process of the country, the main interest in the Republic of Macedonia in terms of the Lisbon Treaty was enlargement. “Will the Lisbon Treaty speed up the integration of the Western Balkans? What will happen next?” These were the questions posed in many talk shows and opinion pieces in the newspapers and TV. According to the Macedonian public, the treaty has a much more flexible approach in terms of the other questions and issues. The Lisbon Treaty is expected to ease the EU accession of the Republic of Macedonia, because it clearly states that all countries may become part of the Union, says the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Antonio Milososki.
European institutional questions are usually discussed in the United Kingdom primarily in ideological rather than practical terms. The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty led at the end of 2009 to a certain amount of polemical discussion in this country concerning the new posts and institutions set up by the Treaty. The almost exclusive focus of this discussion was however the question of how far these posts and insitutions should or should not be seen as building-blocks for a European superstate. This polemical discussion has now largely disappeared. The day to day workings of the posts and institutions set up by the Lisbon Treaty, on which the questionnaire concentrates, have proved to be of limited interest in the United Kingdom, except to specialists. British political discussion over the past six months has moreover been largely monopolised by the general election, in the campaign for which European questions played only a subordinate role. These circumstances militating against detailed discussion of European institutional questions in the United Kingdom will inevitably be reflected in the following answers, which may well be unsatisfactory, but are not on that account inaccurate.
Presidency of the European Council
Herman Van Rompuy was initially described as a person about whom little was known outside Belgium. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, when asked in March 2010 about his opinion concerning Van Rompuy, indicated that he did not know him too well as of yet. Among the newspapers, judgments about Van Rompuy have gone from wait-and-see to describing him more and more often, in the words of one newspaper, as “an accomplished player in the power game, determined to take a lead position in Brussels.” Within a very short time, he has, among other things, built up a cabinet of experienced Belgian diplomats, called EU heads of state and government to an extra meeting and suggested far-reaching proposals on EU policy.