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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Laeken Declaration

The "Declaration on the Future of the European Union", adopted in Laeken in December 2001 by the European Council, was an undertaking by the Union to become more democratic, more transparent and more efficient, by continuing the institutional reform started under the Nice Treaty.

The Laeken Declaration put an end to the exclusively intergovernmental method of revision of the treaties. It convened a convention consisting of delegates of governments, representatives of national parliaments, the European Parliament and the Commission. Thereafter, the convention proposed a draft Constitution for the European Union, which served as the basis for the treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe signed in Paris on 29 October 2004.

Legal status of the European Union

The question of the European Union’s legal status has been raised primarily with regard to its capacity to conclude treaties or adhere to conventions. The Union, which comprises three separate Communities each with legal status (the European Community, ECSC and Euratom) and two areas of an intergovernmental nature, does not have what is referred to in international law as “treaty-making powers", i.e. the international capacity to enter into agreements with third countries.

In practice, however, the doctrine usually acknowledges that the Union has this status, because it has already entered into agreements with third countries. In the final analysis, the Union has strong institutions to which Member States have transferred part of their powers.

Article I-7 of the treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe provides for the European Union to be given legal status.

Lisbon Strategy

The Lisbon Strategy is a commitment to bring about an economic, social and environmental revival within the European Union. In March 2000, the Lisbon European Council put forward a 10-year strategy aimed at making the Union the world’s most competitive and dynamic economy. According to the strategy, a stronger economy will stimulate job creation and facilitate social and environmental policies that will ensure sustainable development and social cohesion. The plan focuses on four aspects:

  • sustainable economic growth;

  • quantitative and qualitative improvement in jobs;

  • greater social cohesion;

  • consideration of the principles of sustainable development in Community policies.

To achieve these objectives, the members of the Council have decided to meet once a year for a Spring European Council. The purpose of these meetings is primarily to monitor the progress of the Lisbon Strategy and, if appropriate, adopt new measures.

Luxembourg compromise

The Luxembourg compromise of January 1966 settled the “empty chair" crisis in which France had not taken its seat in the Council since July 1965. The compromise was an acknowledgement of the disagreement between a) those who, when a major national interest was at stake, wanted the members of the Council to endeavour to find solutions, within a reasonable period of time, which could be adopted by all Member States in accordance with their mutual interests and b) France which was in favour of continuing discussions until a unanimous agreement was reached. Later, other Member States came round to the French viewpoint.

The compromise did not prevent the Council from taking decisions in accordance with the EC Treaty which provides, in many cases, for qualified majority voting. Moreover, it did not prevent the members of the Council from continuing their efforts to reach a consensus on the different viewpoints before the Council reached a decision.

This page was last modified on : 29-12-2004

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