Starting today, Portugal will take over the presidency in the EU Council (see: presidency website). This is reason enough to take a look back on the achievements of the past 6 month under the German presidency.
One has to acknowledge that the presidency did indeed accomplish to strengthen the EU’s transparency and to promote the image of the union with its people; according to a recent poll of the Eurobarometer, 57% of EU citizens think their country’s EU membership is a good thing. This is a 10 year high and – if the numbers are in fact a true image of the reality, and there is no real reason to believe they wouldn’t be – a significant change in the public perception of the EU. One might add however, that this result is probably not only due to the presidency but rather a culmination of a long term and multifaceted development.
Starting of with the Berlin Declaration (see hereto the post: Berliner Erklärung – Ein Kommentar) the German presidency furthermore attempted to bring a rather important reform of the EU’s own organizational system on its way. And with the result of the June-Summit it actually appears as if this goal has been achieved. A Reform Treaty will be drafted, taking over most of the suggestions already presented by the EU Draft Constitution. It was inter alia agreed that the Treaty on the European Union as well as the Treaty establishing the European Community should be amended. The latter will be renamed “Treaty on the Functioning of the Union” (why not leave out the words “of the” and make the name the agenda?). Some of the important material changes contain the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which will be given legally binding value (except concerning the United Kingdom), a double majority voting system will be kept (however only starting in 2014), qualified voting will be introduced into new areas (making the decision making process more effective), the co-decision procedure involving the European Parliament will be the general procedure (thereby further strengthening the roll of the Parliament; cf. Art. 251 ECT) and the Commission President will be elected by the Parliament. Moreover, the EU’s foreign policy will be significantly strengthened by the introduction of the office of a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the establishment of a European External Action Service. In addition, a number of changes in the field of the specific policies will be made.
It will be interesting to see how this Reform Treaty (unfortunately, the name “Constitution” has been dropped) will be able to integrate all these issues in a comprehensive way. Much of the burden will – in the coming month – lie on the Portuguese presidency, which has already declared the reform of the treaties (along with an agenda for modernising European economies and societies, and the strengthening of Europe’s role in the world) its top priority.