The Lisbon Treaty opened up a new chapter in the European Union. The Treaty provided the EU with a new legal basis and tools for further economic and political integration and to tackle future challenges. This development in the EU also has an impact on Switzerland, which is therefore closely monitoring the situation.
The International Law Day, held on 17 September in Bern Town Hall, was attended by Michael Reiterer, Ambassador of the European Union to Switzerland, Christa Markwalder, National Councillor and President of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alain Berset, Member of the Council of States, Thomas Pfisterer, former Federal Supreme Court Judge and former Member of the Council of States, Henri Gétaz, Head of the Integration Office FDFA/FDEA (IO) and other renowned experts. Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey held the closing speech. With around 270 people taking part, the level of interest in the International Law Day was exceptionally high this year.
In his speech, Professor Jean-Paul Jacqué, former Director-General of the Legal Service of the Council of the European Union explained the changes ushered in by the Lisbon Treaty, the most important of which are probably the strengthening of the European Parliament (EP) by extending its powers and the shift from the principle of unanimity to qualified majority voting in the European Council. Christine Kaddous, Professor of European Law at the University of Geneva talked about new developments in the area of EU foreign policy, which are also highly significant for Switzerland. For instance, Switzerland now has two new contacts in Brussels: the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, and Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
At the end, Professor Roland Bieber explained how the EU has become increasingly democratic by means of the various integration steps it has taken. The Lisbon Treaty has also brought about clear progress in this area. The main focal points are the strengthening of the European Parliament, and enabling citizens to have a greater say in politics by establishing the European citizen's initiative. In a panel discussion, Ambassador Michael Reiterer, National Councillor Christa Markwalder and Henri Gétaz went into greater depth about the changes that the Lisbon Treaty has achieved and their effects on Switzerland. In a second panel discussion, Alain Berset, Thomas Pfisterer and Professor Andreas Auer from the University of Zurich talked about aspects of democracy and federalism in the EU.
In her closing speech, Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey talked about the effects of the Lisbon Treaty on Switzerland. Alongside the key strengthening of stability in Europe, she also mentioned new challenges that have arisen for Switzerland as a result of the Treaty, for instance the great efforts that a non-member country has to undertake in order to be heard in Brussels. The Federal Councillor also made it clear that Switzerland's path must not lead the country into de-facto membership of the EU with no right of co-determination.
Each autumn, the Directorate of Public International Law of the FDFA holds an event on a current legal topic. This year's event was organized in collaboration with the Integration Office FDFA/FDEA, the Swiss Association of European Law (ASDE) and the Swiss Association of International Law (SVIR).
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