Just weeks after Portugal took over from Germany at the helm of EU affairs it is already closing in on its main goal: a new EU treaty by October. Following a mandate set at the EU summit on 21 and 22 June, European leaders will now look to build a sound institutional and political basis for Europe in the 21st century.
The talks that began last week (23-24 July) – known as an intergovernmental conference – set out to devise a reform treaty that will make the expanded EU more efficient and democratically legitimate.
Among key planned improvements are:
a more democratic and open EU – both citizens and national parliaments will see decisions taken first hand as lawmaking discussions open up to public scrutiny. Europeans will be given the opportunity to influence proposed EU laws.
a more effective EU – through effective and streamlined institutions. Including swifter, more consistent decision-making on law and order issues, giving the EU greater ability to combat crime, terrorism and human trafficking.
more rights and values for Europeans – the EU's values and goals will be set down more clearly than ever before. And the charter of fundamental rights will be given the same legal status as the EU treaties themselves.
a more prominent global actor – the EU will seek more coherence between the different strands of its external policy, such as diplomacy, security, trade and humanitarian aid. And the bloc will be given a single legal personality to strengthen its negotiating power.
According to the commission, these improvements will "give the Union the capacity to deliver change, to make Europeans more secure and prosperous and to open up their opportunities to shape globalisation." The hope is that the talks will lay the groundwork for a treaty that can be agreed and ratified ahead of the June 2009 European elections.