The Lisbon Treaty: Italian perspective
As a result of French and Dutch referendums, the Constitution was doomed to failure and the EU faced a serious institutional deadlock which lasted for 2,5 years till December 2007. Romano Prodi commented on this situation: «The Treaty gave Europe a number of instruments which till recent times didn’t exist. But there is no more a united spirit which could become a modus vivendi» This situation got resolved on the 13th of December 2007 when the Lisbon Treaty or the Reform Treaty was signed aiming at restitution of the Constitutional Treaty . The Lisbon Treaty initiated a new decision-making process, fast theoretically, but not fair practically. It also didn’t incorporate the Charter of Human Rights, nowadays, it is only annexed to the Lisbon Treaty in the form of declaration, though acquiring binding force, however, Poland and Great Britain were granted derogation. I call it a political focus. Anyway, its 52 articles proclaim universal human rights of dignity, freedom, equality, solidarity, citizen’s rights and justice are considered mandatory for other 25 member-states. Signing of the Lisbon Treaty happened when Portugal was presiding over the EU, consequently, a prominent summit took place in Lisbon. Everyone expected a typical European Union summit: long sessions, crisis breaks, tet-a-tet talks, and — at best — a last-minute compromise. But Lisbon didn’t go according to expectations. At 1 a.m. after 8 hours of negotiations leaders had managed to find a compromise on the first day of the summit .
Again, a long way of ratification process was ahead.
Slovenia which was presiding over the EU starting from January 2008 and in its presidency programme mentioned the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty as the main priority . However, at the end of its presidency on the 13th of June 2008 it was evident by results of Irish referendum that 53% of citizens were against the Treaty. Ireland is the only EU country which is ratifying the Treaty via referendum (other member-states via their national parliaments). This is conditioned on by the fact that human rights are priorities above all written laws in Ireland while in other member-states the priority is given to acquis communitaire. Anti-Lisbon campaign was also huge – “Review of the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon” or why Ireland should say “NO” to the Treaty was sent literally to each home and office in Ireland. It was also mentioned in the Review that starting from the 1st of November 2014, “A qualified majority shall be defined as at least 55 % of the members of the Council representing the participating Member States, comprising at least 65% of the population of these States. A blocking minority must include at least the minimum number of Council members representing more than 35 % of the population of the participating Member States, plus one member, failing which the qualified majority shall be deemed attained” . The blocking minority in this case could become 4 heavily populated EU members (for example, French-German alliance could get support from two other locomotives – Italy and Great Britain, in such case national interests of other member-states will be ignored). Also, starting with November 2014 the European Commission will consist of a number of representatives amounting to 2/3 of all the EU member-states , i.g. 18 members out of 27. This will mean that representation of Ireland will not be permanent and decisions will be taken without its opinion. Another reason for such referendum results could be strong catholic mentality and church traditions in Ireland. Such kind of integration could influence and change Irish society radically, they seemed to be unready for that. It was evident that Irish population was trying to preserve its identity, as France and the Netherlands did in 2005. It was also evident that Ireland was under a strong pressure of European elite (French, German, Italian!!!) that would have been waiting till the end when Irish people finally say “YES” on the referendum… For example, Italian president Giorgio Napolitano was outraged by the fact that the majority of Irish were against the Lisbon Treaty. In Italian president’s opinion, a great number of European officials and representatives has been working heavily on the draft for many years, it would be inconceivable to start with tabula rasa: “It is impossible that the country with the population less than 1% of the EU population can block this process which can’t be postponed anymore” . The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy Franco Frattini also stressed that Italian parliament is planning to ratify the Lisbon Treaty till the end of summer 2008: «Italian parliament will work under the ratification of the Treaty as soon as possible» . However, not only Ireland but also Polish president (due to the same reasons as Ireland) refused to sign the document after Polish parliament has ratified it. Lech Kachinsky said he would sign the Treaty when Irish citizens would vote in favour of it.
For a long time the EU was again searching for institutional decision. France that was presiding over the EU in the second part of the year 2008 in its presidency work programme didn’t put ratification of the Lisbon Treaty as a priority. It was only stated that «on the 15 October 2008 the European Council will have its session where the final decision on the Lisbon Treaty will be taken. Until that time, it is necessary to handle a research in order to understand citizens’ preferences in certain realms» . Thus, Sarcozy claimed the necessity of having second referendum in Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty . On the 2nd of October 2009 Ireland proved again its high euroscepticism – votes “against” amounted to 32,9% , but this was enough for the Lisbon Treaty to take its effect finally. What has changed during this year? First of all, situation in the world which influenced Ireland, i.g. financial crises. Irish economy got stuck and social tension rocketed. And, of course, a strong political pressure on Ireland exercised by the EU.
In Italy all chambers voted unanimously on the 23rd and 31st July 2008. The Lisbon treaty took its effect on the 1st of December 2009. Already in November 2009 the EU president Herman van Rompuy and the EU Minister of Foreign Affairs Catharine Ashton were appointed .
In conclusion, Italy, of course, has greatly contributed to the adoption of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, though it was signed in 2004 under Dutch presidency. At the same time it happened in Rome, same Horatio Hall on Campidoglio square where in 1957 two fundamental Treaties of Rome were reached. The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe never took its effect, hence, the Lisbon Treaty or the Reform Treaty was born. Italy also is playing its huge role here – in accordance with the clause №6 of the Lisbon Treaty , all the ratification instruments are stored by Italian government, the same as the Single European Act instruments of the 1987. Italy has been always demonstrating an active «pro-European» oriented policy and being a founding father of the European Economic Communities, it possesses nowadays all the necessary tools for becoming one of the main actors of the united Europe and world as a whole. I am sure its next EU presidency in the second half of the year 2014 will prove that one more time.