Implementation of the Lisbon Treaty under the Spanish Presidency

Spain chaired the EU Coun­cil of min­is­ters dur­ing the first semes­ter of 2010,11With the excep­tion of the Exter­nal Affairs Coun­cil, which is no longer chaired by the rotat­ing Pres­i­den­cy, but by the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive. 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.

Final­ly, uncer­tain­ties in the EU’s insti­tu­tion­al work­ings wors­ened fur­ther because of the two-month delay in get­ting the new Euro­pean Com­mis­sion under José Manuel Durão Bar­roso up and run­ning. This caused a sub­se­quent delay in all leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tives for imple­ment­ing Lisbon.

Nev­er­the­less, despite these three obsta­cles, the terms of the Lis­bon Treaty began to be applied smooth­ly in the first half of the year, and the insti­tu­tion­al goals of the Span­ish Presidency’s ambi­tious pro­gramme were achieved almost completely.

Despite some minor inci­dents involv­ing a lack of coor­di­na­tion and small clash­es in the dis­tri­b­u­tion of func­tions among the new offi­cials – con­ve­nient­ly blown out of pro­por­tion by some media that con­fused the com­plex­i­ties of the new sys­tem with alleged rival­ries between Van Rompuy and the Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zap­a­tero, or between Ash­ton and the Span­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Miguel Ángel Morati­nos – this semes­ter estab­lished a good prece­dent for co-habi­ta­tion between the per­ma­nent and rotat­ing pres­i­den­cies. The link between the Gen­er­al Affairs Coun­cil and the Euro­pean Coun­cil worked, and the Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter accept­ed Van Rompuy’s role of lead­er­ship and medi­a­tion among heads of state or gov­ern­ment, appear­ing with him – and the Pres­i­dent of the Com­mis­sion – at news con­fer­ences after the Euro­pean Coun­cil or sum­mits with oth­er coun­tries when they were held in Spain. The hold­ing of direct, per­son­al meet­ings before major Euro­pean or inter­na­tion­al events cleared the way for the two men to work well togeth­er.22The Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Zap­a­tero and Pres­i­dent Van Rompuy met twice, in Madrid and Brus­sels, before the start of the semes­ter to clar­i­fy their respec­tive func­tions. They also co-signed an op-ed arti­cle, pub­lished in Europe’s lead­ing news­pa­pers in ear­ly Jan­u­ary, to present to the Union’s pub­lic opin­ion the new insti­tu­tion­al order estab­lished by the Treaty; the arti­cle was titled ‘2010, a Good Year for the Union’. It is avail­able at: https://www.eu2010.es/export/sites/presidencia/comun/descargas/noticias/Artxculo_integro_zapatero-rompuy-EN-pdf-pdf.pdf (last access: 29 July 2010). In any case, this har­mo­ny should con­sol­i­date fur­ther in future presidencies.

The agree­ment estab­lish­ing the EEAS was prob­a­bly the major insti­tu­tion­al achieve­ment of the Span­ish Pres­i­den­cy. On 26 April 2010, the Coun­cil approved a polit­i­cal agree­ment on the broad out­lines of the ser­vice, based on a draft pre­sent­ed in March 2010 by the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive. In May and June 2010, on behalf of the Coun­cil, Ash­ton and Morati­nos nego­ti­at­ed the issues of polit­i­cal con­trol, bud­get and staffing with the main groups in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. Final­ly, an accord was reached in Madrid on 21 June 2010 that might be rat­i­fied by a ple­nary ses­sion of the Par­lia­ment and thus pos­si­bly allow for the EEAS to be launched on 1 Decem­ber of this year, coin­cid­ing with the first anniver­sary of the Treaty of Lisbon’s com­ing into force. The plan cre­at­ing the ser­vice calls for deploy­ing more than 6,000 peo­ple in 138 diplo­mat­ic mis­sions around the world over the next five years.33See the agree­ment on the Euro­pean diplo­mat­ic ser­vice by the Coun­cil at: www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/genaff/114045.pdf (last access: 29 July 2010).

While the EEAS was being nego­ti­at­ed – and, thus, not yet up and run­ning – the Span­ish Pres­i­den­cy had to under­take a tran­si­tion­al semes­ter in terms of for­eign pol­i­cy. The two new author­i­ties estab­lished by the Treaty had not yet been able to define their own goals. For this rea­son, the Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter and For­eign Min­is­ter played a greater role than their col­leagues of future rotat­ing pres­i­den­cies will. On the oth­er hand, and lit­tle by lit­tle, the Commission’s del­e­ga­tions abroad were being trans­formed into offi­cial del­e­ga­tions of the EU, but, con­se­quent­ly, the net­work of Span­ish embassies con­tin­ued to rep­re­sent the EU in a spe­cial way in sev­er­al places around the world.

Anoth­er inter­est­ing achieve­ment of the semes­ter was the reg­u­la­tion of the ECI called for in the Treaty. Here, the Pres­i­den­cy deserves cred­it for hav­ing pressed the new Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, which was not formed until Feb­ru­ary, to make up for lost time. Thanks to this pres­sure, on 31 March 2010 the Com­mis­sion pre­sent­ed the draft on reg­u­lat­ing the Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive, a month ahead of sched­ule. Now it has to work its way through the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and the Coun­cil in the usu­al pro­ce­dure. This timetable means that defin­i­tive approval will come some time after the Span­ish Pres­i­den­cy is over. Still, no major changes in the draft are expect­ed. Thus, Euro­pean cit­i­zens will be able to pro­pose leg­isla­tive reforms direct­ly to the Com­mis­sion as long as they come up with a mil­lion sig­na­tures in the space of one year from a third of the mem­ber states, rep­re­sent­ing at least 0.2 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion of each of those states.44See the Com­mis­sion pro­pos­al for a Reg­u­la­tion of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and of the Coun­cil on the cit­i­zens’ ini­tia­tive at: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/citizens_initiative/docs/com_2010_119_en.pdf (last access: 29 July 2010).

    Footnotes

  • 1With the excep­tion of the Exter­nal Affairs Coun­cil, which is no longer chaired by the rotat­ing Pres­i­den­cy, but by the High Representative.
  • 2The Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Zap­a­tero and Pres­i­dent Van Rompuy met twice, in Madrid and Brus­sels, before the start of the semes­ter to clar­i­fy their respec­tive func­tions. They also co-signed an op-ed arti­cle, pub­lished in Europe’s lead­ing news­pa­pers in ear­ly Jan­u­ary, to present to the Union’s pub­lic opin­ion the new insti­tu­tion­al order estab­lished by the Treaty; the arti­cle was titled ‘2010, a Good Year for the Union’. It is avail­able at: https://www.eu2010.es/export/sites/presidencia/comun/descargas/noticias/Artxculo_integro_zapatero-rompuy-EN-pdf-pdf.pdf (last access: 29 July 2010).
  • 3See the agree­ment on the Euro­pean diplo­mat­ic ser­vice by the Coun­cil at: www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/genaff/114045.pdf (last access: 29 July 2010).
  • 4See the Com­mis­sion pro­pos­al for a Reg­u­la­tion of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and of the Coun­cil on the cit­i­zens’ ini­tia­tive at: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/citizens_initiative/docs/com_2010_119_en.pdf (last access: 29 July 2010).

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.