Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Will the EU finally have one telephone number with the Lisbon Treaty?

Adelina Marini, October 18, 2009

More than 20 years ago the former American secretary of state Henry Kissinger had said that for him the EU would not exist unless it has a single telephone number he could use to call Europe. Although it is very likely the Lisbon Treaty will come into force very soon, the chances for a single number are more than vague. It is true that the EU will have a president, but he will only have a coordinating function. This means that, again, he will not be able to respond quickly and clearly to any question.

And the dialogue a la Kissinger would look almost like this:

Hillary Clinton: “Hi, president, is the EU going to support us in our attempt to impose new sanctions on Iran? For the purpose we have proposed to Moscow not to proceed with our plans to install elements of our anti-missile programme in Poland and the Czech Republic”.

President: “So far, Mrs. Clinton I can tell you that there is a division among member states on the issue of the shield. We will have to wait for the European Council to decide in December”.

Mrs. Clinton, naturally, would not wait for the European Council in December, because even then it is quite likely that the EU leaders would not reach an agreement. With the Lisbon Treaty the decisions will be taken with a qualified majority. This means that if 2/3 of the EU leaders vote in support of the sanctions they will have to make sure that their countries represent 2/3 of the population of the EU. In other words, if the 2/3 is formed by small countries and their population does not represent 2/3 of the EU citizens, then there is no decision. A small detail is that the qualified majority principle does not apply for foreign policy issues.

Nevertheless, this makes the decision-making process in the Union, maybe, fairer, but certainly not easier and less sluggish. On top of this, the G20 appeared in the global agenda. There the EU is represented twice - on the one hand as a legal entity, but on the other - members of the G20 are some of the biggest EU member states. And this swirls once more the Union in its own vicious circle.