In December 2007, leaders of the European Union (EU) signed the Lisbon Treaty, which seeks to reform the EU's governing institutions and decisionmaking processes to enable a larger EU to operate more effectively. This new treaty represents the latest stage in a reform process begun in 2002 and essentially replaces the proposed EU "constitution" that foundered after French and Dutch voters rejected it in referendums in 2005. In June 2008, Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty, and have thrown its future into doubt. This report provides background information on EU reform efforts and possible implications for U.S.-EU relations that may be of interest in the second session of the 110th Congress.
The 785-member, directly elected European Parliament (EP) is a key institution of the 27-member European Union (EU). Once limited to being a consultative assembly, the EP has accumulated more power over time. Currently, it plays a role in the EU's legislative and budgeting processes, and exercises general supervision over other EU bodies. Ties between the EP and the U.S. Congress are long-standing, and EPCongressional exchanges are expected to continue in the second session of the 110th Congress.