JCMS 2010 Volume 48 Annual Review pp. 95–118
Institutions and Governance: A New Treaty,
a Newly Elected Parliament and a
George Mason University
Elections for the European Parliament (EP) and the nomination of a new
European Commission made 2009 a particularly important year with regard
to European Union institutions and governance. More signiﬁcant than these
ﬁve-yearly events, however, was the long-delayed ratiﬁcation and implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. In June 2009, EU leaders approved a Decision ‘on
the concerns of the Irish people on the Treaty of Lisbon’, which they annexed
to the European Council ...view middle of the document...
As expected, the Treaty passed by an impressive
majority of 67 per cent, with a 59 per cent turnout.
Ireland was not the only country not to have ratiﬁed before the end of
2009. President Lech Kaczynski of Poland, who strongly opposed the Treaty,
reluctantly signed the instrument of ratiﬁcation on 10 October. Czech president Václav Klaus, an ardent Eurosceptic, refused to sign the instrument of
ratiﬁcation until the last possible moment. Klaus raised an eleventh-hour
concern that the treaty could open the way for property claims by ethnic
Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II. EU leaders
appeased Klaus by giving the Czech Republic an opt-out from the Charter of
Fundamental Rights. Having milked the ratiﬁcation procedure for all it was
worth, Klaus ﬁnally signed on 3 November, allowing the Treaty to come into
effect on 1 December 2009.
Germany’s parliament had voted in good time to ratify the Treaty, but the
president was unable to sign the instrument of ratiﬁcation pending a ruling by
the Constitutional Court on the compatibility of the Treaty with Germany’s
Basic Law. The Court ﬁnally ruled in June 2009 that the Lisbon Treaty was
indeed compatible, subject to a change in Germany on the role of parliament
in EU decision-making. Although proponents of the Treaty breathed a sigh of
relief, a closer look at the lengthy court ruling revealed that it raised several
red ﬂags about the direction of European integration (see Dougan, this
volume). In particular, the court emphasized the limits of EU competence and
the existence of a ‘structured democratic deﬁcit’ which only national parliaments, not the EP, could possibly close (Federal Constitutional Court, 2009).
If anything, the ruling should have reassured Eurosceptics as to the limits of
This article begins with a comment on the lengthy treaty reform process,
the signiﬁcance of the Lisbon Treaty and the steps taken in 2009 to prepare for
its implementation. The article then looks at the conduct and outcome of the
EP elections, followed by the nomination of the second Barroso Commission.
A ﬁnal section examines the implications of the ﬁnancial crisis and economic
recession for EU governance and institutions.
I. The Lisbon Treaty
The Lisbon Treaty, the latest and probably the last major revision of the
foundational treaties, is highly consequential for the EU. It was also politically
© 2010 The Author(s)
Journal compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
INSTITUTIONS AND GOVERNANCE
costly, having taken eight years to complete, beginning with the Constitutional
Convention and ending with the protracted ratiﬁcation procedure. The saga of
the Lisbon Treaty shows how fraught the process of treaty reform has become
and the touchiness of European integration for politicians and the public alike.
The background to the Treaty was the determination of EU leaders – in national
governments and EU institutions – to...