So they have finally done it! European leaders gathered in Lisbon on Thursday to sign the new European Treaty, which it is hoped will streamline the EU's decision making process.
For the population of Europe this was an event that must raise question marks about how much control it really has over how the Union is evolving. After all, the Treaty that has been signed this week bears more than a passing resemblance to the 'Constitution' that was rejected by French and Dutch voters back in 2005.
But, with the ink now dry, politicians will want to make sure that ratification does take place this time. The key battleground will be Ireland, which is at present, the only country to be planning a referendum. Consequently, it’s probable that all of the main groups that are against the passing of the treaty will focus their attention and money on this vote. Watch out there could be some real fireworks!
But fireworks are exactly what leaders from the unions 27 countries would like to avoid. As a result they are probably going to spend next year making sure that they don't "say" anything or "do" anything that could provide ammunition for the NO camp.
Indeed, the summit that is to be held here in Brussels on Friday could be one of the most boring in recent memory. The leaders will want to turn a new page and leave the constitution/treaty debate firmly behind them. Having said that, there could be some interesting news over the next 24 hours.
The first area of note could be the declaration on Globalization which has been championed by the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. What he is proposing is that the EU focuses its attention on shaping globalization to suit the needs of the European population. It’s an issue close to Mr. Brown’s heart and to get it onto the agenda he has struck a deal with Nicolas Sarkozy.
What the French President gets in return is a working group on the future of the EU. While the group’s mandate will not overtly include the issue of accession, it’s obvious to everyone that this will be the panel’s primary focus. What the French hope is that the issue of the union’s borders will be put on the back burner for years to come. This will have the knock-on effect of side-lining Turkey’s plans to join the EU.
However, Mr. Sarkozy appears to have come off best in his bargain with Mr. Brown. That’s because the French have inserted a ‘reciprocity’ clause into Mr. Brown’s globalization declaration which will stick in the British PM’s throat and could be a source of conflict.
But the most controversial aspect of this summit is likely to be Kosovo. There is already talk that we could see some of the EU’s larger member states back independence and the creation of an independent state. We don’t have conformation of this yet but watch this space.
By Guy Johnson, CNBC Europe Anchor