EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

The Treaty of Lisbon



The Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community


  • It reforms how EU institutions operate and decisions are taken to make these suitable for an EU which had grown to 28 members after successive enlargements.
  • It reforms the EU’s internal and external policies and, by giving the European Parliament further legislative powers, ensures greater democracy in EU decision making.


Institutional changes

The European Parliament

  • is now composed of representatives of the EU’s citizens, not, as previously, of the peoples of the EU countries, thus establishing a stronger democratic link between Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the electorate;
  • enjoys increased legislative powers through the use of the ordinary legislative procedure. The Lisbon Treaty extends this to 40 new policy areas, raising to 73 the total number where the Parliament and the Council adopt legislation on an equal footing;
  • elects the European Commission President by a majority of its members;
  • has a maximum number of 751 members.

The European Council

Consisting of heads of state or government, this gives the EU greater continuity and coherence. It is formally recognised as an EU institution that sets out the EU’s general political directions and priorities.

It elects by majority vote a president for a once renewable 30-month mandate, replacing the previous 6-month rotating role.

The Council

It applies new majority voting rules when approving legislation. To secure a majority requires at least 55% of EU countries representing at least 65% of the EU’s population. To block a proposal, at least 4 countries have to be against.

It meets in public when discussing and voting on draft legislation.

The European Commission

The President of the Commission is:

  • chosen and elected based on the outcome of the European elections;
  • responsible for the appointment of commissioners, the distribution of their portfolios and can request an individual commissioner to resign.

The Court of Justice of the EU

Its jurisdiction is extended to all EU policy areas except for the common foreign and security policy.

The European Central Bank (ECB)

The ECB is now formally recognised as an EU institution by being listed in Article 13 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

Common foreign and security policy

The treaty:

Other changes

EU policies

The previous pillar structure is replaced by a new distribution of competences:

  • exclusive: areas where the EU alone legislates and member countries implement (Article 3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU));
  • shared: areas where EU countries can legislate and adopt legally binding measures if the EU has not done so (Article 4 TFEU);
  • supporting: areas where the EU adopts measures to support, coordinate or supplement national policies (Article 6 TFEU);
  • in addition, all policies on border controls, asylum, immigration and judicial and policy cooperation become an EU competence, instead of being an intergovernmental responsibility, as before.

Strengthening democracy

The treaty:

  • confirms the 3 fundamental principles of democratic equality*, representative democracy* and participatory democracy*;
  • introduces the citizens’ initiative which is one of the major innovations of the Treaty of Lisbon by which not less than one million citizens (under certain condition) may invite the Commission to submit a proposal (Article 11 TEU);
  • makes the Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding and giving it the same legal value as the treaties (Article 6 TEU)
  • gives national parliaments a greater say in EU decision making (Article 12 TEU);
  • the ordinary legislative procedure (former co-decision) is now the default legislative procedure where the European Parliament is on an equal footing with the Council as co-legislator (Article 294 TFEU);
  • introduces the distinction between legislative acts and non-legislative acts depending on their decision making-process (Article 297 TFEU);
  • introduces delegated acts (Article 290 TFEU) and implementing acts (Article 291 TFEU). The former gives the Commission the power to adopt non-legislative acts of general application to supplement a legislative act (but not on essential elements). The latter provides a framework for the Commission’s action in former comitology domains.

Leaving the EU

The treaty provides for the first time a formal procedure if an EU country wishes to withdraw from the EU (Article 50 TEU – see summary on Article 50 negotiations with the UK (1)).


It was signed on 13 December 2007 and entered into force on 1 December 2009.


The Lisbon Treaty is largely inspired by the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. The constitution had been intended to replace the EU’s founding treaties with a single text. It was signed in Rome on 29 October 2004. To enter into force, the constitution needed to be ratified by all (the then) 27 EU countries (17 ratified). However, it was rejected by national referenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

In contrast, the Lisbon Treaty amends those treaties, just as the Amsterdam and Nice treaties had done. It incorporates the majority of the institutional and policy reforms the constitutional treaty had envisaged.


Democratic equality: the EU must observe the principle of the equality of its citizens, who shall receive equal attention from its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies (Article 9 TEU).
Representative democracy: EU citizens are directly represented at EU level by the European Parliament.
Participatory democracy: EU citizens have the right to participate in EU decisions and interact with the EU institutions, for example, through dialogue by means of civil society organisations in which they are members.


Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community, signed at Lisbon, 13 December 2007 (OJ C 306, 17.12.2007, pp. 1–271)

last update 15.12.2017

(1) The United Kingdom withdraws from the European Union and becomes a third country (non-EU country) as of 1 February 2020.