The need for another treaty within the EU structure arose from the simple fact that the European Union has evolved. Like any group or club the Union started small, with the tools it needed to affect real change amongst its group. And it did that. Six countries who had been involved in tragic and catastrophic wars realised that something needed to change. Progression was needed. Sense dictates that progression and evolution is required to fulfil obligations and better equip this unique trans-national organisation in negotiations and activities. Treaties of Maastricht, Nice and Lisbon followed. The European Coal and Steel Community developed into the European Economic Community which in turn has evolved into the current 27 member European Union. The original ethos of peace and economic balance has remained and we have all benefitted from it.
The Lisbon Treaty has at its core the principle of accountability and democracy. The EU isn't perfect but the Treaty sets about tackling some of the issues.
QMV (Qualified Majority Voting)
The use of QMV has been extended to simplify the work of the Union. The European Union has come of age; an enlarged family of 27 cannot operate effectively without modifying the tools that were created initially for a Union of 6. The European Union has always operated by Member States building up alliances among themselves to promote a position or point of view. This will continue. Ireland is well liked by its EU partners and so far, has achieved net gains from membership that "an island, west of an island" on the periphery of Europe could ever hope to achieve by going alone. However, by introducing greater use of QMV, it means one Member State cannot hold all the others to ransom over the daily business of the Union. A double majority system has been put in place to avoid imbalance between the larger and smaller EU countries.
National Parliaments and the European Union
The Dáil now gets an opportunity to raise objections to any legislation coming from the EU that it believes could be better dealt with on a national or local level. It is up to the Dáil to use the mechanisms in place effectively.
The European Parliament is now a co-legislator with equal powers with the Council of Ministers in most areas. Co-decision with the Council is now the norm. This increases democratic accountability and ensures decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen.
The European Council
Under the Lisbon Treaty, the European Council becomes a separate institution with its own President for a fixed term of two and a half years. This is not a legislative role; it increases the visibility of the Union and overall coherence of EU action in the world. The Council President will chair the European Council and progress the work of the Council.
All meetings of the Council will now be held in public and can be filmed and attended by journalists enabling more transparency for all Europeans.
The Council President is NOT a president of Europe!
The European Union and You, the citizen
Any citizen of the European Union, or resident in a Member State, may already, individually or in association with others submit a petition to the European Parliament on a subject which comes within the European Union's fields of activity and which affects them directly. This is a procedure that has already been widely used by Irish citizens to highlight many situations where they believe their rights are adversely affected. With Lisbon, this facility has been further enhanced in that a petition from one million citizens of the EU ( there are almost 500 million of us!) can be brought in order to request that the Commission look into a particular area of concern and draw up legislative proposals on the grounds of that petition, thus adding to the level of active and direct participation by EU citizens in the running of the Union.