Help Print this page 

Summaries of EU Legislation

Title and reference
Revision of EU Treaties

Summaries of EU legislation: direct access to the main summaries page.
Languages and formats available
Multilingual display
Text

Revision of EU Treaties

 

SUMMARY

The possibility to revise the founding Treaties is essential for the European Union (EU). It allows the framework of European legislation and policies to be adapted to new challenges that the EU has to face. The Treaty of Lisbon allows for a simplified revision procedure and makes revision more democratic.

The revision procedures are described in Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union. Whatever procedure is followed, EU countries must unanimously agree on the revision of the Treaty provisions concerned.

ORDINARY REVISION PROCEDURE

The ordinary revision procedure concerns key amendments made to the Treaties, such as increasing or reducing the competences of the EU. It works as follows:

Any EU country's national government, the European Parliament or the Commission may submit to the Council a proposal to amend the Treaties; The Council submits these proposals to the European Council (consisting of the Heads of State and Government of the EU countries),the national Parliaments also being notified of the proposed procedure.

If the European Council adopts a positive decision, a Convention composed of representatives of national Parliaments, of EU countries' Heads of State or Government, the European Parliament and the Commission is convened. The Convention examines the proposals for amendments and adopts decisions by consensus.

A Conference of representatives of the governments of EU countries is then convened by the President of the Council with a view to adopting by common accord the amendments to the treaties. The changes come into force only after they have been ratified by all EU countries.

The European Council may also decide, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, not to convene a Convention if amendments are not of great importance.

SIMPLIFIED REVISION PROCEDURE

The Treaty of Lisbon creates a simplified procedure for the amendment of the EU's internal policies and actions (for example, agriculture and fisheries, internal market, border controls, economic and monetary policy). The objective is to facilitate further European integration in these areas.

This procedure avoids the need to convene a European Convention and an Intergovernmental Conference.

The European Council acts by unanimity having consulted the Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Central Bank if the amendment concerns monetary matters. Amendments to the Treaties only enter into force if they have been ratified by all EU countries.

The competences of the EU, however, may not be extended by means of a simplified revision procedure.

Following the 2008 banking crisis, the simplified procedure was used to allow the creation of the European Stability Mechanism by an intergovernmental agreement of the countries in the euro area. The European Council's decision of 25 March 2011 adds a third paragraph to Article 136 of the Treaty on Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which reads as follows ‘the Member States whose currency is the euro may establish a stability mechanism…’ but ‘…the granting of any required financial assistance under the mechanism will be made subject to strict conditionality.’

PASSERELLE CLAUSES

‘Passerelle clauses’ are the second simplified revision procedure.

The general passerelle clause (Article 48 (7) TEU) concerns the 2 following cases:

1.

Where the Treaties provide that an act is to be adopted by the Council acting unanimously, the European Council may adopt a Decision authorizing the Council to act by qualified majority. This possibility does not extend to decisions regarding military implications and those in the area of defence.

2.

Where the Treaties provide that an act is to be adopted by a special legislative procedure, the European Council may adopt a decision allowing for the adoption of such an act in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure.

In both cases, the European Council can act unanimously after obtaining the consent of the EP. Furthermore, each national Parliament has the right to object and prevent the general passerelle clause from being activated.

THE FLEXIBILITY CLAUSE (ARTICLE 352 TFEU)

This clause extends the EU's powers where a measure appears necessary to attain one of the objectives of the Treaties and where the Treaties do not provide for the necessary competence. Measures under this provision are adopted by the Council acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after approval by the European Parliament. They shall not entail harmonisation of EU countries' laws, in areas where the Treaties exclude such harmonisation.

last update 17.11.2015

Top