The Treaty of Lisbon and EU Trade Policy: A Political-Economic Analysis



Date and Time

May 17, 2010 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM



Open to the public.

RSVP required by 5PM May 16.


Encina Ground Floor Conference Room

FSI Contact

Laura Seaman

On December 1, 2009 the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force, bringing to an end eight years of discussions on treaty reforms in the European Union (EU). It included many of the institutional reforms that were originally part of the proposed EU Constitution, voted down by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005. The Treaty of Lisbon could potentially be one of the most important EU treaties, depending on whether, for example, the newly created permanent European Council Presidency will manage to assert its authority and whether the Parliament will succeed at imposing its interpretation of the treaties. The objectives of this seminar are twofold. First, it will present an overview of the most important political and institutional reforms of the Treaty of Lisbon, and discuss its implications. Second, it will focus on EU trade policy and study how the Treaty of Lisbon will affect it. Trade policy is a good policy area to analyze, because it is one of the areas in which the EU’s powers are most extensive, and because the Parliament acquired new powers in this area, as it did in many other policy domains. Procedurally trade policy differs significantly from other EU policies: the Commission negotiates trade agreements based on mandates it receives from the Council. Agreements need final approval from the Council and, since December, the Parliament. The seminar will present a political-economic analysis of EU trade policy, analyze the role of the mandate, and study the implications of the increased role of the Parliament.  

Christophe Crombez is a specialist of European Union (EU) politics and business-government relations in Europe. His research focuses on EU institutions, the institutions' impact on EU policies under alternative procedural arrangements, EU institutional reform, lobbying in the EU, and electoral laws and their consequences for voter representation, party politics and government formation.

Crombez has been at the Forum on Contemporary Europe (FCE) at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University as a visiting professor since 1999. At FCE he organizes seminars and other events on European Union politics and economics and European political systems. Crombez is also visiting professor at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, where he teaches a course on Politics and Business in Europe. He also teaches in the International Relations Program.

Furthermore, Crombez is professor of political economy and strategy at the University of Leuven in Belgium. He has been teaching in Leuven's business and economics department since 1994. His teaching responsibilities include political business strategy and applied game theory.

Christophe Crombez obtained a B.A. (Licentiaat) in Applied Economics from the University of Leuven in 1989, and a Ph.D. in Business, Political Economics, from Stanford University in 1994.


Audio Synopsis:

Professor Crombez first highlights key characteristics of the EU treaty system: each iteration of the treaty increases European integration; the growth of majority voting promotes smoother decision making; and every new treaty requires compromise between member states, and between political factions within the EU. Crombez then outlines changes in the Lisbon Treaty, including new policy areas for cooperation such as climate change, space policy, sports, judicial and police cooperation, and homeland security. The treaty establishes the European External Action Service, a kind of European diplomatic corps. Majority voting has been implemented in 68 new policy areas, including transport policy, immigration policy, and social security for migrant workers. The treaty grants significant new power to Parliament in multiple policy areas, and creates a permanent EU presidency. Progress has not been smooth, however: the Lisbon Treaty was voted down by Ireland in 2008 (before later being ratified), and much progress on actual policy is slowed by the reluctance of member state representatives to vote against the views of their constituents. Areas for optimism, Crombez explains, include two clauses that enable progress without a change to the treaty:

1.     Passerelle Clause: 8 articles outlining new policy areas previously requiring unanimous decisions which can now be decided through majority voting, except on defense-related issues.

2.     Flexibility Clause: decisions can now be made on issues where the EU lacks explicit authority if those issues promote the goals of the treaty. Unanimity is required, but not a formal change of the treaty.

Professor Crombez then turns his focus to trade policy under the Lisbon Treaty. An important change is that Parliament now has the option of codecision, in addition to the existing procedure of consultation (where the Council approves the Commission's proposal by unanimous decision). Codecision, in contrast, allows for qualified majority voting - leading the Commission to propose policies it may not think are ideal but which will more likely pass. In this way, Crombez feels codecision has made EU trade policy resemble US trade policy, wherein the executive branch may desire more liberal policies than what the legislature will accept. Crombez predicts this system may "lower the bar" and lead to more protectionist trade policies.

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