The Lisbon Treaty: more democracy for Europe

After years of wrangling over the functioning of the European Union, the Lisbon Treaty entered into force on 1 December 2009. The new rules make the EU more democratic and strengthen the role of local and regional authorities in Brussels.

Following the final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and the decision on who should be appointed to the two newly-created top EU posts, the European institutions and the Member States must now put the new fundamental rules into practice at political level. The reforming treaty serves the interests of citizens by strengthening Europe's democratic dimension and making the EU more efficient and more transparent. The Committee of the Regions, which gave its full support to the new treaty from the outset, insists therefore that the new rules should be quickly and fully implemented.

Alongside new possibilities for direct democracy, such as the European citizens' initiative, the treaty also gives more weight to the political levels that are closest to the public: local councils, county councils and regional parliaments. When new EU legislation is drafted, their competences must be taken into consideration and they must be heard in wide-ranging consultations at an early stage. From 1 December, the EU must also publish, alongside each legislative proposal, an analysis of its financial and administrative impact on regions and municipalities. At the same time, the Committee of the Regions, the voice of the EU's cities and regions in Brussels, gains new rights and a stronger position in relation to the other EU institutions.

The Committee of the Regions can now challenge new EU laws in the European Court of Justice when it believes that those laws violate the subsidiarity principle. The Lisbon Treaty also strengthens the Committee's consultative role: in future not only the Commission and the Council, but also the Parliament are required to consult it.  If this does not happen enough, the Committee can involve the Court of Justice. Furthermore, with the new treaty the CoR will have the right to be consulted by the three institutions on new policy areas, such as energy and climate change.

For the first time "territorial cohesion" is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty as a fundamental objective of the European Union. The treaty also recognises local and regional autonomy and provides for greater subsidiarity monitoring by national and regional parliaments with legislative powers (such as the German Landtage).

European legislation will also, in future, take greater account of the needs of European citizens and their elected local and regional representatives. The Lisbon Treaty makes the concerns of citizens more visible in Europe's day to day operations – which will, at the same time, lead Europe to be more visible in its citizens' daily lives.

Click here for more detailed information on how the Lisbon Treaty strengthens local and regional authorities.

General information on the new EU treaty can be found on the EUROPA website