Irish voters back Lisbon... but what does the treaty actually mean?

Irish voters yesterday delivered a resounding endorsement of the Lisbon Treaty, causing waves of relief and celebration in Brussels and Dublin about the future of the EU and of the Irish government.

The referendum produced a vote of two-thirds in favour of the treaty, a reversal of last year's poll which rejected it. So, what is the Lisbon Treaty?

* It is a charter designed to streamline existing EU treaties and was agreed in Lisbon in October 2007.

* It enacts many reforms contained in the EU constitution of 2004, which was thrown out by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

* Ireland was the only EU country to hold a referendum on Lisbon.

* The treaty creates for the first time a permanent EU president and foreign affairs chief.

* It will streamline the European Commission from 2014.

* Phased in between 2014 and 2017 will be a distribution of voting rights – a qualified majority voting system giving 55 per cent of member states greater power over the rest.

* The treaty removes some national vetoes.

* There will be new powers for the European Commission, European Parliament and the European Court of Justice.

* It creates a charter of fundamental rights – from which the UK can opt out.

* The UK retains the right to opt out of policies on justice and home affairs. It also keeps control of national foreign and security policy.

* Unlike the constitution, the treaty does not contain reference to an EU flag, anthem or motto.

* The Czech Republic and Poland are the two remaining EU countries out of 27 still to ratify the treaty.

* Poland is expected to sign this month. The Czech government said yesterday it would ratify by the end of the year.

* The president and foreign affairs chief were expected to be approved later this month. But, because of the Czech delay, they will either be agreed in a meeting in December or in 2010.

* The president would serve a two-and-a-half-year term. He or she would be a figurehead for Europe and "ensure the external reputation" of the EU.

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