The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by the last struggler – the Check republic- inevitably brought new ideological impetus to idea of Europeanization. However, just when a wave of Europtimism and ebullience should capture the souls and minds of the humble European citizenry and the Eurosceptics should retreat in a dark corner and admit their ideological failure, the realistic observer should start questioning the credibility of the Lisbon treaty and its implications for the UK politics.
Despite the ambition of the Treaty of Lisbon to establish the Union as a unitary actor in the international affairs and to amend its institutional dysfunction especially in areas such as justice and home affairs and defence, the ratification of the document by all of the 27 member states does not prescribe any positive implication for the average British citizen. The transition from intergovernmentalism to supranationalism, which the Union is supposed to go through with the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, could have a detrimental impact on particular groups in the European society such as the poor, the deprived and the members of the ethnic minority groups. The predilection behind it is simple: the transfer of power from the national governments to a supranational European authority will leave the marginalized ones in an even more disadvantageous position. If the European Union in the face of the relevant institution becomes more involved in domestic issues concerning the well being and improvement of the lives of the poor and the minorities in the UK, which the Lisbon treaty implies, hardly any progress is to be seen.
The simple presence of the supranational element does not suggest any protection or voice for the deprived and underrepresented communities in the decision-making process of the Union. Of course, an antipode to that statement is the introduction of the so-called citizen petitions, which are designed to give more voice to the European Union citizens through direct participation. According to the Lisbon treaty, if 1 million citizens sign a petition the draft-making and supervisory body of the Union – the Commission can consider it. The treaty is unclear however if these citizen petitions are going to be enforceable and applicable in the context of the law of the Community.
What is even more discouraging for the marginalized groups in the UK after the ratification of the treaty is the expenditure side of it. The undertakings suggested by the treaty such as the creation of the European army and the prioritization of the justice and criminal institutions is conveniently interpreted by the Europtimists as a giant leap forward towards European federalism. However, a far more rational and not necessarily hostile Eurosceptic would say that this will increase the expenditures of the union as a whole, which will affect the taxpayers in the UK. The UK has traditionally been one of the net contributors to the EU budget and it is highly unlikely that the average British tax payer will be happy to contribute to ideas which remain an abstraction for most people.
What is more, the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, whose practical implementation will not only be long and formidable, but also costly, comes in a moment when the figures for the UK’ s economic performance for the past three months are easily grim. On top of it, neither the Lisbon treaty, nor its designers provide any reasonable validation of some of the promises of the partisan document such as more jobs and higher economic growth. It is still unclear how these promises will be transferred on a national level in a country like the UK and how will the poor and unemployed benefit from the ‘revolutionary’ stipulations of the treaty. Then it may be relevant to ask, is the Lisbon treaty a cohesive and rational attempt of the European Union architects to solve red alert issues in the member states through a top down spillover, or is the sequel of the European Constitution just another bureaucratic whim, which will benefit the strong and deprive the weak?
Of course, it cannot be denied that the institutional changes incorporated in the treaty are intrepid and fundamental and will probably redirect the future of the Union. The almost complete elimination of the old and ineffective unanimity/consensus voting procedure and the more extensive use of the Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) will facilitate the adoption of legislature in areas such as justice and home affairs and foreign politics. The introduction of the EU President post is in general an institutional, if not a diplomatic innovation, whose completion will add some flavour to the collective representation of the Union; also, the expansion of the decision-making powers of the European Parliament, the only directly elected institution of the Union, will definitely shut the mouths of the EU democratic deficit theory defenders. However, despite the fancy wording and the rumours for a radical revamping of the Union, the questions of the ordinary British citizen remain unanswered and their problems – unresolved.
It seems that just when the Lisbon treaty brought Europeanization back in fashion, the wisest thing for the UK is to maintain a moderate, and, despite the bitter implication, a slightly non-European stance. The irony if it all is that in Europe’s most European moment ever, the best thing for a country like the UK will be to preserve a conservative, moderate and well-balanced position, without confusing the rhetorical pathos with the feasibility of efficient policy-making.