Lisbon has changed Europe forever
by EP President Jerzy Buzek
We must 'think and act European at all levels of government', writes European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek
We have now operated under the new Lisbon Treaty for over a year. Although there are still many aspects that are in the process of being defined, we can make some observations on how this new treaty functions in practice.
First of all, we have to understand that the treaty has rebalanced the institutional framework in Brussels by making the European Parliament a full co-legislature. It has also involved citizens far more through the citizens' initiative and involved national parliaments directly in the legislative process. I am convinced that these two innovations will have a positive effect on the way people see European laws, because it gives them a sense of ownership of European Union legislation.
European laws are no longer decided in a far-off place like Brussels – they will be much closer to our citizens because everyone is now a stakeholder. We have a strong inter-governmental side to this table today and we need to rebalance the community side of it. This is what I believe we need to do over the course of the next five years as I believe that the community method continues to be the right model for us.
My second point is that the European Parliament itself is also changing. With the new treaty, we are gradually entering into areas of competence we previously did not have. Remember, we started as a parliament that could only give its opinion and dealt only with the single market. Today, we are a full co-legislature, and we deal with all issues.
Recent examples to illustrate this include that we now have the right to be involved in all treaties signed by the EU and this sometimes leads to differences of opinion. What the EP is defending is not always what the member states are defending, even though we share the same citizens.
My third and final point looks at what this new context means for both national and European civil servants, in the future. How, in this changing Europe, should a national administration and a European administration function? With the innovations that the Lisbon Treaty brought in by making the distance between the national and the EU level closer, it also has to make our administrations closer.
Why? Because we need to think and act 'European' at all levels of government. This is why I am convinced that we will move away from the old division of national versus European administration. One idea could be to strengthen the number of national experts within the EU administration. They come for a few years before returning to their own administration, but we need more of these kinds of exchanges. And this should be a two-way street, where our experts can also be dispatched to national administrations.
Or, perhaps, we can imagine that future administrations will take the new European External Action Service as a possible model where two-thirds are EU civil servants and one-third are from national administrations. Regardless, the EU is changing. The parliament is changing with it. And the role of administration is to be part of this change, no matter if it is on the EU or the national level.
This article first appeared in Public Service Review: European Union – a sister title of PublicServiceEurope.com