The Implementation of the Lisbon Treaty from a Portuguese perspective

The insta­bil­i­ty which result­ed from the new polit­i­cal sce­nario11See the Por­tuguese chap­ter on cur­rent issues. 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.22The five year term of the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic, Aníbal Cava­co Sil­va, is com­ing to its end, a new elec­tion is sched­uled for the begin­ning of 2011. The Por­tuguese Con­sti­tu­tion does not allow for the dis­so­lu­tion of Par­lia­ment and a sub­se­quent gen­er­al elec­tion dur­ing the last six months of the pres­i­den­tial term. 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.33Tere­sa de Sousa/Isabel Arria­ga e Cun­ha, Pub­li­co, 21 Novem­ber 2009. For­mer Pres­i­dent Mário Soares also crit­i­cised the appoint­ment of Her­man van Rompuy by stat­ing that “Euro­peans in gen­er­al don’t know who he is, and that’s a bad thing“.

Since that ini­tial moment, things do not seem to have sub­stan­tial­ly changed. The gen­er­al impres­sion is that Europe is fac­ing a very com­pli­cat­ed peri­od in its life and appears to be inca­pable of adopt­ing the nec­es­sary mea­sures to move for­ward. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true from an insti­tu­tion­al point of view, as there are no real signs that the new “bal­ance of pow­ers” result­ing from the Lis­bon Treaty has come into force. The main feel­ing is that the exis­tence of a new Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil and of a new High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy – who is also the Vice-Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion – just added two new play­ers to an already com­pli­cat­ed puz­zle where there are too many peo­ple in the driver’s seat.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Mário Soares44Visão: Europe: from bad to worst, 15 July. express­ly states that Europe has no sin­gle com­mand, “the con­fu­sion being now even greater” with the new Pres­i­dent Van Rompuy, “the Eng­lish diplo­mat, Cather­ine Ash­ton”, the Pres­i­dent of the Com­mis­sion, Bar­roso, and the tran­si­tion between Zap­a­tero and Leterme in the frame­work of the rotat­ing pres­i­den­cies. He accus­es the 27 mem­ber states of the Union and the 16 of the Euro­zone, in par­tic­u­lar Ger­many, France, and the Unit­ed King­dom, as well as Spain and Poland, of being inca­pable of reach­ing a con­ver­gent and con­cert­ed strat­e­gy to face the cri­sis. The gov­er­nor of the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, qual­i­fied as being “a French­man who is pret­ty much in favour of Ger­many”. He is also accused of adopt­ing very restric­tive mea­sures to reduce the deficits and pub­lic and pri­vate debts, as well as for­get­ting the peo­ple, the ris­ing unem­ploy­ment, pover­ty and social exclu­sion.

Using dif­fer­ent words, the Pres­i­dent of the Por­tuguese Repub­lic, Ani­bal Cava­co Sil­va, also addressed the same issues at the 25th anniver­sary of the sig­na­ture of Por­tu­gal and Spain Acces­sion Treaties by stat­ing that “the Euro­pean inte­gra­tion is weak­ened by the lack of a strate­gic direc­tion and fail­ures of respon­si­bil­i­ty and sol­i­dar­i­ty both by mem­ber states and Euro­pean insti­tu­tions”, con­clud­ing that it is nec­es­sary to give an impulse to the eco­nom­ic union (“the weak­est link of the Euro­pean Union”) and to the Euro, with­out which “the sur­vival of the Euro­pean project may be at risk”.

One of great­est uncer­tain­ties cre­at­ed by the enter­ing into force of the Lis­bon Treaty was the out­come of the rotat­ing pres­i­den­cies in the new insti­tu­tion­al sce­nario. It is true that no sub­stan­tial changes were expect­ed from the very begin­ning and 2010 was already antic­i­pat­ed as being a sort of “tran­si­tion­al peri­od”, but there was some curios­i­ty on how this “two-head­ed” pres­i­den­cy would work in prac­ti­cal terms. It is still too soon to draw any con­clu­sions. The Span­ish Pres­i­den­cy seemed to be quite dis­tant from the expec­ta­tions, which might be explained by the country’s very com­plex inter­nal sit­u­a­tion with a rate of unem­ploy­ment over 20 per­cent, a sig­nif­i­cant eco­nom­ic down­turn and sub­stan­tial prob­lems in pub­lic finance. In any case, the Euro­pean agen­da in this first semes­ter was clear­ly dom­i­nat­ed by the “Greek prob­lem” and the need to find a prompt response to the severe chal­lenges that most – not to say all – Euro­pean economies are fac­ing. This is clear­ly the kind of sit­u­a­tion where the role of a rotat­ing pres­i­den­cy could be sec­ondary.

Appar­ent­ly, every­body is very cau­tious about the future of rotat­ing pres­i­den­cies and it seems that there is a con­sen­sus that we will have to wait some­time before being in a posi­tion to draw any defin­i­tive con­clu­sions. Ulti­mate­ly, the suc­cess of this mod­el will depend on the affir­ma­tive­ness of the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil and on the find­ing of a sound bal­ance between his pow­ers, the pow­ers of the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive – who chairs the Coun­cil for For­eign Affairs – and the pow­ers of the heads of state and gov­ern­ment of the pre­sid­ing mem­ber state. Any sig­nif­i­cant breach of this bal­ance will, inevitably, lead to an insti­tu­tion­al cri­sis and to the risk of “par­al­lel diplo­ma­cy”.

Con­trary to some oth­er mem­ber states, the set­ting up of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice (EEAS)55Pro­pos­al for a Coun­cil Deci­sion estab­lish­ing the organ­i­sa­tion and func­tion­ing of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice, 25 March 2010, avail­able at: http://eeas.europa.eu/docs/eeas_draft_decision_250310_en.pdf (last access: 30 March 2010). was not a mat­ter of great debate in Por­tu­gal, as it was gen­er­al­ly seen as com­ple­men­tary to nation­al diplo­ma­cy. As explained by the Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs, Luis Ama­do, at the begin­ning of the year, “we do not see the Euro­pean [Exter­nal Action] Ser­vice as a lim­i­ta­tion to the action of the mem­ber states, but rather as a com­ple­ment that may rein­force said action. For a coun­try like Por­tu­gal, it is pos­si­ble to express its inter­ests through that ser­vice in sev­er­al regions of the world. It is true that the great mem­ber states will have more rel­e­vance in the pro­jec­tion of their inter­est, but that’s the real­i­ty”.66Inter­view in the news­pa­per Públi­co, 3 Jan­u­ary 2010.

It is expect­ed, how­ev­er, that some con­tro­ver­sy may arise after the des­ig­na­tion of the future Euro­pean ambas­sadors, in par­tic­u­lar if the final result of this exer­cise does not recog­nise the priv­i­leged rela­tion­ship which exists between Por­tu­gal and some regions of Africa and South Amer­i­ca or if it is con­sid­ered as a “down­grade” when com­pared to the actu­al sit­u­a­tion (the cur­rent heads of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion del­e­ga­tions, for instance, in Ango­la and in Brazil are Por­tuguese nation­als).

More recent­ly, Ama­do also addressed this issue in anoth­er inter­view where he stressed the fact that thir­ty Por­tuguese diplo­mats were among the can­di­dates to the EEAS and that he is expect­ing that the des­ig­na­tions will be based upon their mer­its and respect for a sound bal­ance between the dif­fer­ent mem­ber states. In par­tic­u­lar, Ama­do stat­ed that, besides João Vale de Almei­da, for­mer chief cab­i­net of the Pres­i­dent of the Com­mis­sion and now EU Ambas­sador to the USA in Wash­ing­ton, the Por­tuguese gov­ern­ment would be pleased to stay rep­re­sent­ed in Ango­la and Brazil, although it recog­nis­es that it is not direct­ly involved in the selec­tion pro­ce­dure.77Inter­view in the news­pa­per Expres­so, 24 July 2010.

The debate on the Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive (ECI)88Euro­pean Com­mis­sion: Pro­pos­al for a Reg­u­la­tion of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and of the Coun­cil on the cit­i­zens’ ini­tia­tive, COM (2010) 119, avail­able at: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/citizens_initiative/docs/com_2010_119_en.pdf (last access: 6 April 2010). is almost inex­is­tent so far. Apart from some few arti­cles pub­lished in the press or in blogs99See, for instance, Eva Gas­par: Quer faz­er uma nova lei europeia?, Jor­nal de Negó­cios, 31 March 2010; Isabel Estra­da: Ini­cia­ti­va de Cidada­nia Europeia — pre­cisamos mes­mo de mais instru­men­tos?, Cor­reio do Min­ho, 25 March 2010; Cidada­nia Europeia: O Novo Dire­ito de Ini­cia­ti­va Pop­u­lar, Jovem Social­ista, the offi­cial blog of the Social­ist Youth news­pa­per. after the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pre­sent­ed the pro­pos­al defin­ing the rules and pro­ce­dures for the ECI at the end of March 2010, it is quite dif­fi­cult to find any ref­er­ences to the ini­tia­tive and even offi­cial insti­tu­tions appear not to pay great atten­tion to this sub­ject. Recent expe­ri­ences – such as the 2009 Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Con­sul­ta­tion organ­ised in Por­tu­gal by the Insti­tu­to de Estu­dos Estratégi­cos e Inter­na­cionais (IEEI) – tend to show that, although this kind of ini­tia­tives is high­ly appre­ci­at­ed, the degree of effec­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion is clear­ly below expec­ta­tions.

    Footnotes

  • 1See the Por­tuguese chap­ter on cur­rent issues.
  • 2The five year term of the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic, Aníbal Cava­co Sil­va, is com­ing to its end, a new elec­tion is sched­uled for the begin­ning of 2011. The Por­tuguese Con­sti­tu­tion does not allow for the dis­so­lu­tion of Par­lia­ment and a sub­se­quent gen­er­al elec­tion dur­ing the last six months of the pres­i­den­tial term.
  • 3Tere­sa de Sousa/Isabel Arria­ga e Cun­ha, Pub­li­co, 21 Novem­ber 2009. For­mer Pres­i­dent Mário Soares also crit­i­cised the appoint­ment of Her­man van Rompuy by stat­ing that “Euro­peans in gen­er­al don’t know who he is, and that’s a bad thing“.
  • 4Visão: Europe: from bad to worst, 15 July.
  • 5Pro­pos­al for a Coun­cil Deci­sion estab­lish­ing the organ­i­sa­tion and func­tion­ing of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice, 25 March 2010, avail­able at: http://eeas.europa.eu/docs/eeas_draft_decision_250310_en.pdf (last access: 30 March 2010).
  • 6Inter­view in the news­pa­per Públi­co, 3 Jan­u­ary 2010.
  • 7Inter­view in the news­pa­per Expres­so, 24 July 2010.
  • 8Euro­pean Com­mis­sion: Pro­pos­al for a Reg­u­la­tion of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and of the Coun­cil on the cit­i­zens’ ini­tia­tive, COM (2010) 119, avail­able at: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/citizens_initiative/docs/com_2010_119_en.pdf (last access: 6 April 2010).
  • 9See, for instance, Eva Gas­par: Quer faz­er uma nova lei europeia?, Jor­nal de Negó­cios, 31 March 2010; Isabel Estra­da: Ini­cia­ti­va de Cidada­nia Europeia — pre­cisamos mes­mo de mais instru­men­tos?, Cor­reio do Min­ho, 25 March 2010; Cidada­nia Europeia: O Novo Dire­ito de Ini­cia­ti­va Pop­u­lar, Jovem Social­ista, the offi­cial blog of the Social­ist Youth news­pa­per.

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.