Carrying the EU Forward: The Era of Lisbon

David Phinnemore, Clive H. Church

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores how the EU ended a long period of constitutional change by agreeing the Treaty of Lisbon and then used it to face new challenges of a financial crisis, Brexit, and COVID-19. All of these contributed to thinking that further treaty change might be needed. The process started in the Convention on the Future of Europe in 2002–03, which produced the Constitutional Treaty of 2004. Despite its rejection, the EU persisted with treaty change, and produced not a constitution, but, in October 2007, an orthodox amending treaty —the Treaty of Lisbon—carrying forward much of the Constitutional Treaty into two consolidated treaties. Although ratification was held up by an initial referendum rejection in Ireland in June 2008, reflecting both doubts about some elements of the Treaty and a deeper unease about the EU, this was overcome, and the Treaty entered into force on 1 December 2009. Its implementation proceeded relatively smoothly but was complicated by the eurozone crisis, which in turn pushed the EU to pursue further treaty reform, this time resulting, because of UK objections, in extra-treaty arrangements as well as a treaty amendment. Thereafter, increasing Euroscepticism, populism, and persistent question marks over the popular legitimacy of the EU caused the official appetite for treaty reform to all but evaporate for much of the 2010s, even if integrationists believed further reform was needed. Then, after the UK’s June 2016 vote to quit the EU, many thought that further changes were possible, with France’s President Macron calling for a ‘re-founding’ of the Union. However, Brexit was negotiated within the terms of the Treaty of European Union. Equally, despite limits to the EU’s treaty responsibility for health, measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic were agreed. Calls for treaty revision, including from populist leaders, have continued but, despite EU member states committing in 2020 to a Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFE), active steps to re-negotiate the consolidated treaties have not yet begun.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Union Politics
EditorsMichelle Cini, Nieves Pérez-Solórzano Borragán
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780198862239
Publication statusAccepted - Nov 2021


  • European Union
  • Treaty of Lisbon
  • Constitutional Treaty


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