Executive Summary: The EU Reform Treaty: A Threat to the Transatlantic Alliance

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Executive Summary: The EU Reform Treaty: A Threat to the Transatlantic Alliance

February 20, 2008 4 min read Download Report
Sally McNamara
Sally McNamara

Sally McNamara is a Senior Policy Analyst in European Affairs.

After French President Nicolas Sarkozy's and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's successful vis­its to Washington, D.C., U.S. policymakers might be forgiven for thinking that U.S. strategic interests are now in safe hands in continental Europe. How­ever, this optimism discounts the enormous threat posed by the Reform Treaty, which was signed in Lisbon on December 13 and is little more than the European Constitution with a cosmetic makeover.

Under Chancellor Merkel's personal leadership, the European Union breathed life back into the rejected European Constitution, recasting it as the Reform Treaty. It still contains the building blocks of a United States of Europe and will shift power from the member states of the European Union to Brus­sels in critical areas of policymaking, including defense, security, and energy--areas in which the United States finds more traction on a bilateral basis. The treaty is a blueprint for restricting the sovereign right of EU member states to determine their own foreign policies and poses a unique threat to the British-American Special Relationship.

Above all, the treaty underscores the EU's ambi­tions to become a global power and challenge American leadership on the world stage.

Substantially the Same. The Reform Treaty re­tains all the essential components of an EU super­state that were included in the EU Constitution, including a single legal personality, a permanent EU presidency, an EU-wide public prosecutor, and the position of foreign minister in all but name. It increases the number of decisions that can be taken by qualified majority voting (QMV) to 40 new matters, including foreign policy, energy, trans­port, space, commercial policy, humanitarian aid, sport, tourism, and investment. Overall, the treaty takes at least as many steps toward "ever closer union" as the old constitution and will significantly strengthen EU powers at the expense of member states' sovereignty.

To this effect, the House of Commons' European Scrutiny Committee made a stunning indictment of British government policy: "Taken as a whole, the Reform Treaty produces a general framework which is substantially equivalent to the Constitu­tional Treaty." The committee's report makes clear that the British government did not think through the Reform Treaty and secured few, if any, exemp­tions from the constitution's excesses that the EU cannot change.

Foreign Policy Implications. The EU has attached great importance to the treaty's granting of a stronger voice on the world stage. The EU boasts that the Reform Treaty compels member states to speak with a single voice on external relations. With a single legal personality, Brussels will now sign international agreements on behalf of all member states. With breathtaking arrogance, the European Commission claims that with the Reform Treaty in place, "The European Union is uniquely well placed to find the answers to today's most pressing ques­tions...and to see European values promoted effec­tively in the global community."

However, the EU has been anything but effective in speaking with one voice on such major problems as Islamic terrorism, the Balkans, and Darfur. For example, it has refused to use its extensive arsenal of sanctions to fight the broader war on terrorism and continues to implement the barest of sanctions against Iran.

Implications for the Special Relationship. The institutional and political constraints of further European integration will severely limit Britain's abil­ity to build international alliances and make foreign policy. The greatest damage would be to Britain's enduring alliance with the United States. In political, diplomatic, and financial terms, no good has come from limiting Britain's geopolitical outlook to the European continent, and certainly no benefit can come from a deeper EU absorption that limits Brit­ain's time-tested relationship with the United States.

Britain has found its strongest, most enduring alliance in its Special Relationship with the United States. Consistent and recurring cooperation, sys­tematic engagement, and enduring bilateral rela­tions have defined this relationship. Ultimately, the Special Relationship is special because shared val­ues and common interests bind the two countries in ways that are beyond the reach of the EU elites' undemocratic and unaccountable governance. Fur­ther still, Britain and America are prepared to defend their common values--with military force if necessary.

Under the treaty, the United Kingdom will not have the power to veto the appointment of the EU's primary foreign policy actor. Yet the enhanced role for this unelected minister should cause Washing­ton great concern. Under the treaty, the EU foreign minister will have the power to appoint EU envoys; a bigger profile, budget, and diplomatic corps at his disposal; the right to speak on behalf of member states in multilateral institutions (including the U.N. Security Council upon request); and the right to propose EU military missions.

It is vital that the U.S. recognize the value of deal­ing with its enduring allies on a bilateral level. The EU's desire to create "One Europe" using the Euro­pean Security and Defense Policy has duplicated NATO security structures and significantly down­graded the possibility of traditional alliance-build­ing by the United States. Replacing individual European allies with a single EU foreign minister in any context or institution is a bad idea.

Brussels clearly intends to become the U.S. Administration's first port of call in conducting its European foreign policy. However, the Administra­tion should not expect the warm response that it gets in London and other national capitals.

Conclusion. The Lisbon Reform Treaty is demonstrably a political treaty. After only five months to study this historic international treaty, the British government effectively signed away its inde­pendence and self-determination. If there was ever a time for the White House to become unnerved about further European integration, this is it.

The world faces both unprecedented threats and unprecedented opportunities that require greater flexibility for nation-states to act. The Reform Treaty denies sovereign states the ability to do that and fur­ther limits their right to build alliances with the United States. Britain is uniquely positioned to fash­ion an EU that better serves British and American interests, and its initial reluctant signature of the Reform Treaty can be reversed. America should send its special ally a clear message that it will sup­port Britain in reasserting its sovereignty.

Sally McNamara is Senior Policy Analyst in Euro­pean Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Free­dom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. Erica Munkwitz, an intern in the Davis Institute, assisted in preparing this paper.


Sally McNamara
Sally McNamara