Leading the fight against climate change, building an ambitious space policy, ensuring security of energy supply: these are a few examples of what the EU is now able to do thanks to the Treaty of Lisbon.
The European Union’s wide ranging activities affect our everyday lives, but the challenges facing Europe today are complex and diverse. The treaty will help Europe to continue moving forward in this world of increased competition and changing demographics. This will pay dividends, not only in the area of growth and competition, but also in aspects of our social care. Now all EU policies will have to factor in boosting employment, adequate social protection and the fight against social exclusion.
Climate change and the environment
Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing us now: it impacts on our social and economic lives as well as our environment. Fighting it on an international level is the cornerstone of the EU’s environment policy, along with sustainable development. Although sustainable development and environmental protection have been included in existing treaties, the Treaty of Lisbon sets out clear definitions, reinforcing the EU’s action in these fields.
Energy supplies are crucial to us all: rising bills have affected many Europeans in the last couple of years. The Treaty of Lisbon helps Europe secure its supply and will promote the use of sustainable and competitive resources.
The Treaty contains a specific chapter on energy which defines the key competencies and the overall objectives of energy policy: the functioning of energy markets, security of supply, energy efficiency and savings, the development of new and renewable forms of energy and the interconnection of energy networks. For the first time there is a principle of solidarity, ensuring that if one country faces severe difficulties in the supply of energy, other Member States will help keep the country supplied.
The Treaty of Lisbon aims to facilitate the prevention and protection against natural and man made disasters within the EU. A new legal basis allows EU countries' actions in this field to be supported and operational cooperation to be promoted. As the first visible signs of climate change to hit Europe, floods and fires, become apparent, cooperation between Member States is now more necessary than ever.
The wellbeing of Europe’s citizens is at the heart of the Treaty of Lisbon so further developments are made to health policies. The Treaty provides for measures which have as their direct objective the protection of public health, including as regards tobacco and the abuse of alcohol. To step up patient protection, the EU is able to set standards for medical products and devices. Finally, the Treaty helps Member States monitor the early warning of serious cross-border threats, such as avian flu. Should such threats become reality, the Treaty enables EU countries to mobilise all their resources in a coherent and efficient manner.
The Treaty of Lisbon recognises the role public services play in social and regional cohesion – transport, schooling, health care all keep us going. A special protocol is attached to the Treaty, which sets out the key ways to make services of general interest effective and relevant.
The Treaty also consolidates economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Union; for the first time, the principle of territorial cohesion appears in the EU objectives. The Treaty of Lisbon strengthens the role of the regions and the new definition of the principle of subsidiarity – according to which the EU only acts where results can be better attained at EU level rather than national level – now refers to both local and regional levels.
The Treaty of Lisbon puts at the heart of its research policy the establishment of a European Research Area in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely. At a time when new world players are emerging with a keen interest in establishing space projects, the Treaty also creates a new legal basis for a coherent space policy: a clear acknowledgement that Europe can not afford to overlook the economic and strategic benefits of a space policy.
For everyone to flourish, trade needs to be kept fair and free. The Treaty of Lisbon extends the scope of Europe’s commercial policy to include direct foreign investment. The tools of intellectual property: trademarks, designs, patents, copyright, are a driving force for innovation, growth and competitiveness. The Treaty of Lisbon makes uniform protection throughout the Union easier to provide.
The Treaty of Lisbon paves the way for a real European dimension in sport. New provisions enables the EU to support, coordinate and supplement the actions of Member States, promoting neutrality and transparency in sporting competitions and cooperation between sporting bodies. It also protects the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and women, with particular emphasis on the young.
The euro area, comprising the countries having adopted the common currency, will also run more smoothly under the Treaty of Lisbon. The Commission is able to issue a "direct" warning to Member States whose loose budgetary discipline risks jeopardising the proper functioning of the euro area.
The Treaty of Lisbon clearly states that everyone has the right to the protection of their personal data. This right is also enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The Treaty of Lisbon creates a new legal basis entirely devoted to tourism, which should reinforce the EU as the foremost tourist destination of the world.