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EU Reform Treaty

The Lisbon Treaty entered into force on 1 December 2009. The sweeping reforms will greatly enhance the European Union’s efficiency and democratic foundations.

A Treaty for the EU’s future

The new Reform Treaty will enable the EU to face the challenges of the 21st century, for the benefit of its citizens and based on Europe’s fundamental values – respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights.

Foreign policy reforms will enable the EU to defend European interests on the international stage more visibly and more vigorously.

The changes the Lisbon Treaty will make to the EU’s contractual framework are also vital for the continued enlargement of the EU.

The new Treaties provide for considerable progress:

  • a full-time President of the European Council,
  • significant enhancement of the role of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy,
  • extended, and therefore facilitated, qualified majority voting,
  • introduction of the double majority principle.

Enhancing protection for fundamental rights

Signing of the Treaty of Lisboa 2007

Signing of the Treaty of Lisboa 2007
© picture-alliance/dpa

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Signing of the Treaty of Lisboa 2007

Signing of the Treaty of Lisboa 2007

Signing of the Treaty of Lisboa 2007


The EU Reform Treaty expressly refers to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, although it is not part of the Treaty. On the eve of the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon, representatives of the major EU institutions proclaimed and signed the Charter during a ceremony in Strasbourg.

Germany: ratification completed

By depositing the instrument of ratification at the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome, Germany ratified the Treaty of Lisbon on 25 September 2009 and is thus bound by it under international law. Prior to that, Federal President Horst Köhler signed the instrument after the accompanying law had entered into force.

On 30 June 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the Lisbon Treaty is compatible with Germany’s Constitution. However, the participation rights of the Bundestag and Bundesrat still had to be enhanced. To that end, the accompanying law was redrafted. On 8 September, the Bundestag approved the law by a large majority in the second and third readings. The Bundesrat approved it on 18 September.

Legal proceedings had been instituted with the Federal Constitutional Court on the grounds that final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty would allegedly breach fundamental constitutional principles. President Köhler therefore initially decided not to sign the instrument of ratification until the proceedings before the Federal Constitutional Court had been concluded.

How the Reform Treaty was arrived at

The basis for existing European law is the Treaty of Nice, which was signed on 26 February 2001 and entered into force on 1 February 2003. This Treaty brought major changes to the Treaties establishing the European Union (Treaty on European Union, Treaty Establishing the European Community) and cleared the way for the EU’s eastern enlargement. As the result of a German-Italian initiative, a declaration designed to initiate a broad-based debate on the future of the EU was appended to the Treaty.

As a result, at the EU Summit in Laeken outside Brussels in December 2001, it was decided to set up a “Convention on the Future of Europe”. Over 2002 and 2003, the Convention drew up the “Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe”. As well as simplifying existing EU law, the Constitutional Treaty was to provide a clearer distribution and delineation of competences between the EU and its member states, as well as to ensure greater democracy, transparency and efficiency.

However, it was rejected by the people of France and the Netherlands in referenda held in mid-2005. The ensuing period of reflection ended on 23 June 2007 with a European Council decision arrived at under the German EU Presidency to convene an Intergovernmental Conference to draw up an EU Reform Treaty.

The European Union Foreign Ministers officially opened the Intergovernmental Conference on 23 July 2007. That same day, the Portuguese EU Presidency submitted a first overall draft of the Reform Treaty. From the end of August until the beginning of October, legal experts from all 27 member states examined and negotiated the document in detail. On 5 October the Portuguese EU Presidency then published a revised draft Treaty, which was the basis for agreement by the Heads of State and Government at the EU Summit on 18 and 19 October.


Last updated 02.12.2009

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