The Reform Treaty does basically eight things.
1. It replaces the present European Union and the European Community with a single European Union enjoying legal personality. As a result the new EU only will have the power to conclude an international agreement within the areas of its competence.
2. The Reform Treaty will merge the three pillars that have been in existence since the Maastricht Treaty (see also, the text here). Special procedures for the common foreign and security policy (CFSP), including defence policy, will be retained though.
3. The new Treaty lays down and lists of the values and objectives of the Union in its first two provisions. The values are: Respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between men and women. Those values constitute the frame of reference for future accessions to the Union, and for any sanctions against a member State that infringes those values in an egregious and persistent manner. The new Treaty provides for an increased number of objectives : Peace, full employment, sustainable development, cultural diversity, solidarity, cohesion and protection of citizens. The objectives are more numerous than those currently listed in Article 2 of the EU Treaty. But, as we've noted before the principle of "free and undistorted competition", currently mentioned in Articles 3 and 4 of the EC Treaty, is eliminated as it is not an end in itself. As we noted, the antitrust rules themselves are unchanged and there will be a new Protocol on the internal market and competition having the same legal value as the Treaty itself.
4. Article 6 of the new European Union Treaty states that the Union will accede to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The FEU Treaty also provides that accession to the ECHR will be agreed by the Council acting unanimously, with the act concluding the agreement to be ratified by all member States.
5. The new Treaty clarifies the basic principles governing relations between the Union and the member States. Provisions set out the competences conferred on the Union, the duty of sincere cooperation and the principle of equality between member States. National security remains the sole responsibility of the member States according to an express provision to that effect. A subsequent post will deal with this in a little more detail.
6. The institutional framework is changed significantly. We'll deal with this in a later post too. For now it is enough to say that the European Council is set up as a discrete institution, separate from the Council, with a President appointed for a 30 month term. The Commission's composition is changed. Above all, the role of national Parliaments is reinforced with an "early warning system" allowing them to give an opinion on whether a proposal complies with the principle of subsidiarity or not.
7. A "neighborhood policy" is set up providing the Union's initiatives in this field with an explicit legal basis.
8. Rather ominously, a clause on withdrawal by a member State from the Union. Withdrawal is not subject to any prior condition and becomes effective once agreement has been reached between the Union and the member State concerned or, two years after notification of the intention to withdraw when no such agreement has been reached.
That's it for now, folks. The next installment will deal with the institutional changes.