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At-a-glance: EU treaty proposals

European Union leaders have reached agreement on proposals for a new treaty to govern the 27-member bloc. Here are some of the main points:

'REFORM TREATY' NOT 'CONSTITUTION'

The rejection of the draft constitution by France and the Netherlands was perceived in some EU member states as an expression of the citizens' fear of a European super-state.

To remove that fear, the new document to be drafted at an Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) convening in July will be called a Reform Treaty - sitting alongside other treaties of the EU, but not replacing them.

Terminology such as "law" and "framework law" will be abandoned - the existing "regulations", "directives" and "decisions" will be retained.

And it will not mention any state-like symbols, such as the EU flag, the anthem or the motto "United in Diversity".

VOTING SYSTEM

The original proposal of the failed constitution for a "double majority" voting system will be incorporated into the new treaty.

It means decisions will need the support of 55% of member states representing 65% of the EU's population.

But, to placate Polish fears that the system penalises it to the advantage of large states such as Germany, a compromise was reached to delay the introduction of the new system until 2014, and then gradually phase it in over three years.

The scope of decisions to be taken under this system is extended to 40-50 new areas - mainly in matters related to the police and the judiciary. However, the UK has been allowed to opt out of criminal matters and police co-operation.

And the national veto will be maintained in the fields of foreign affairs, defence, fiscal matters, and social security and culture.

EU PRESIDENT

A president of the European Council, to be elected by EU leaders for a two-and-a-half-year term, will replace the current system in which EU leaders rotate into the president's post every six months.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The constitution's envisaged post of "foreign minister" has been dropped in favour of a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

He or she will also become vice-president of the Commission, and will have significantly more powers, as well as control over the EU's external aid budget.

The IGC will agree that the establishment of the post will not affect "the responsibilities of the member states, as they currently exist, for the formulation and conduct of their foreign policy or their national representation in third countries and international organisations".

EU COMMISSION

From 2014, the EU's executive arm, the Commission, will be reduced in size. There will no longer be a commissioner to represent every member country - but from two-thirds only.

Commissioners will be selected on a system of rotation to serve five-year terms.

LEGAL PERSON STATUS

The European Union will have the status of a legal person.

To assuage fears that it is developing into a super-state, the IGC has been tasked to agree on the following declaration: "The conference confirms that the fact that the European Union has a legal personality will not in any way authorise the Union to legislate or to act beyond the competences conferred upon it by the member states in the treaties."

CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

Britain has been allowed to opt out of a 50-article charter containing an exhaustive list of well-established rights - from freedom of speech and religion to the right to shelter, education and fair working conditions.

The UK was concerned at the charter's impact on business and its legal system.

Moreover, the charter will not become part of the treaty - it will just be referred to.

NATIONAL PARLIAMENTS

The period given to national parliaments to examine draft legislative texts and to give a reasoned opinion on subsidiarity will be extended from six to eight weeks.

National parliaments may demand, if a certain threshold is reached, that the European Commission re-examine a draft act they deem to be an encroachment on their national competences.

This was a major concern for the Netherlands.

SOLIDARITY

A reference has been included to EU solidarity in the event of an energy supply problem.

This came at the insistence of Lithuania and Poland, concerned at their own high dependence on Russian hydrocarbons.

ENLARGEMENT

At Netherlands' insistence, a reference to criteria for new EU members was added.

So part of the conditions for entry will be a commitment to promoting EU values and an obligation to notify the European Parliament and national parliaments of an application for accession to the EU.

REVISING TREATIES AND WITHDRAWAL FROM THE UNION

The Reform Treaty will have a provision that enshrines the right to revise treaties to increase - but also reduce - the competences conferred upon the EU.

And it also will include an article on voluntary withdrawal of a member state from the union.



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