KEY INSTITUTIONAL INNOVATIONS
     
  • double majority rule for Council decisions (55% of member states and 65% of the EU's population need to support a proposed EU legislation to pass by qualified majority). However, due to fierce Polish opposition, the new voting system will only apply from 2014, with an extra transition period until 2017 when additional provisions making it easier to block a decision will apply (the Ioannina clause);

  • Poland also managed to include the so-called  Ioannina clause  in a Protocol. This allows for a minority of member states to delay key decisions taken by qualified majority in the Council "within a reasonable time", even if they do not dispose of a blocking minority. However, the clause is not included in the actual Treaty text, which means that member states can alter this provision without having to go through the cumbersome procedure of Treaty change;

  • permanent Council President to chair EU Summits for a two-and-a-half years renewable term instead of a six-month rotation;

  • the post of a 'double-hatted' , High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy replacing the current EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Javier Solana and the external relations commissioner. Due to reservations on the British side, the label EU Foreign Minister was dropped;

  • reducing the number of Commissioners from 27 to 15 by 2014;

  • reducing the number of MEPs to a maximum of 750 (with a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 96 per country), but Italy managed to squeeze in an extra MEP, putting it back on equal footing with the UK (73 seats each and 74 for France). The new "750 plus one" formula assumes that the Parliament President will not exercise his right to vote;

  • strengthening national parliaments by giving them the right to raise objections against draft EU legislation (so-called orange card) as a reinforced control mechanism for the principle of subsidiarity;

  • single legal personality for the EU, and;

  • an exit clause was introduced making it possible for members to leave the EU.

 

Important policy changes:

  • Extending qualified majority voting to 40 policy areas, especially those relating to as asylum, immigration, police cooperation and judicial co-operation in criminal matters;  

  • Reference to new challenges, such as climate change and energy, solidarity, especially encountering concerns by Lithuania and Poland about heavy energy dependence on Russia, and;

  • applying new opt-in/out provisions for the UK to some new policy provisions, such as policies on border checks, asylum and immigration, judicial co-operation in civil matters, judicial cooperation in criminal matters and police co-operation. 

 

Items dropped from rejected EU Constitution:

  • The 'Constitution' label was discarded. The Reform Treaty will go back to the traditional method of Treaty change thereby amending both the EC and EU Treaties;

  • reference to the symbols and anthem of the EU;

  • the full text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights was replaced by a short cross-reference with the same legal value. However, due to strong British opposition, the Charter will not be legally binding in the UK. Poland has joined the UK in asking for an opt-out of the Charter, while Ireland has backed away from this option, and;

  • a reference to free and undistorted competition as the EU's goals was taken out at France's request; French President Nicolas Sarkozy argued that competition was not an end in itself. However, this will not raise doubts over the general competition policy competence of the Commission (EurActiv 27/06/07).

 

Ratification:

  • The Reform Treaty is set to come into force as soon as all 28 member states have ratified it, preferably ahead of the European elections in June 2009. While most countries will try to have the new EU Treaty passed through their national parliaments, some countries have come under pressure to hold public consultations. According to an EU-wide TNS poll, 75% of those questioned said that they were in favour of giving people a say in a referendum or citizen consultation.

  • Although Ireland is the only country which is constitutionally bound to a popular vote, others had said they were waiting for the final text before deciding how to ratify it. The option of holding a referendum is especially discussed in Denmark, as well as in the Netherlands, where the draft EU Constitution was rejected by a popular vote in 2005.

  • British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is also under pressure to hold a referendum from the opposition Conservative Party, which claims the new document is almost identical to the rejected Constitution.