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Democratic Implications of the Treaty of Lisbon


The Commission is now obliged to forward all draft legislative acts

to national parliaments, which have eight weeks, instead of six as

under the Nice Treaty, to scrutinize EU proposals before they are

put on the Council agenda. The Treaty of Lisbon provides national

parliaments with an early warning system: If one third of the votes

allocated to national parliaments (each national parliament has two

votes) are cast in objection to Commission proposals on the

grounds that it breaches the principle of subsidiarity, the

Commission must review the draft legislation (this is the so-called

yellow card). If a majority of votes allocated to national

parliaments are cast against a proposal under the ordinary

legislative procedure, the Commission must review the draft

legislation. If the Commission chooses to maintain the proposal, it

has to provide a reasoned opinion justifying the decision. On the

basis of this reasoned opinion and that of the national parliaments,

the European legislator (by a majority of 55% of the members of

the Council or a majority of the votes cast in the European

Parliament) shall decide whether to block the Commission

proposal (the so-called orange card) (Art. 5.2 & Art. 12, TEU;

Protocol on the Role of National Parliaments in the EU; Protocol

on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and


Kiiver describes the enhancement of the role of national

parliaments as the “sugary coating around a bitter pill.” The pill is

“the European integration process itself.” The bitter taste is

“domestic decision-making autonomy draining away in the course

of supranational processes.” Turning national parliaments from

marginal, passive institutions into active players reminds us of “the

sweetness of the days when laws were made by the people for the

people, in an elected and recognizable deliberative forum, and in

the cozy context of the democratic nation-state” (Kiiver, 2008: 77).

From this perspective, the effects of reforms contained in the

Treaty of Lisbon are merely symbolic.

First, not only are yellow card and orange card only

ex ante