EU-diplomaten aan de slag met Europees Verdrag (en)

Met dank overgenomen van EUobserver (EUOBSERVER) i, gepubliceerd op maandag 21 januari 2008, 17:17.

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU diplomats are to start work in the coming days on clearing up the loose ends in the new EU treaty so that it can come into force without any technical glitches once it has been ratified.

An internal document circulated by Slovenia, the current holder of the EU presidency, and seen by EUobserver sets out 33 areas that need to be examined this year if the treaty is to come into force on 1 January 2009 as planned.

The document says it takes into account "the legimate concerns of the institutions and member states that all the necessary preparations be ready in good time to allow for a smooth entry into force of the Treaty."

It notes that EU ambassadors are to start "examining the technical and legal aspects" at the end of January, while Slovenia will assess whether "different arrangements are necessary at a later stage for some of the more sensitive and political points."

Separately, the paper also notes that the new institutional set-up under the Lisbon treaty - it establishes a foreign minister, a long-term president as well as giving the European Parliament a far greater say in law-making - has raised a whole series of pressing questions.

These include the "support structures for the president of the European Council."

At the moment, it is not clear whether the president's post - essentially representing the European Union externally - should have some sort of staff. There are currently no provisions for this in the treaty.

In addition, there is the thorny issue of all the pending EU laws that may be affected by the fact that the entry into force of the treaty will see MEPs have full co-decision rights.

Pending laws in the area of justice and home affairs, agriculture, fisheries, transport and structural funds could all be affected as MEPs gain new powers in these areas.

EU officials must also consider what to do with the monthly meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers, which under the new treaty will be chaired by the EU foreign minister.

Traditionally, this meeting also covers development and trade issues but this would - in the commission's eyes - hand unwanted powers to the foreign minister as the Brussels executive traditionally has strong rights in this area.

The budget will also come up for discussion as the new treaty rules will give the European Parliament the right to approve the whole of the annual EU budget and the seven-year long-term budget.

Under current EU rules, member states alone decide on spending in certain areas such as agriculture.

The Slovene document also lists several other areas, including activating the citizens initiative - whereby EU citizens can petition the commission on issues of their choice - as well as nominating the new president and foreign minister and initial discussions on the setting up of a European public prosecutor.

The new treaty also shakes up how the EU handles its monthly meetings of sectoral ministers in areas such as energy, competitiveness or agriculture.

The current system sees the EU presidency country chair all meetings for the duration of the six-month rotating presidency. But the new system promises to lead to all sorts of political haggling as the meetings are to be chaired by ministers from a team of three member states for a period of 18 months.

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