Among other things, the Lisbon Treaty will grant greater powers to the European Parliament. This week, the assembly flexed its new muscle on a particularly sensitive issue, the EU budget. It began by demanding a review of funding for EU institutions, which it believes should be given the means to achieve their objectives through the introduction of new European taxes. Thereafter, it voted for 5.9% increase to the EU budget: more than twice the figure expected by member states.

Hot on the heels of this initiative, MEPs concluded an inter-institutional framework agreement (FA) with the European Commission that will allow them greater powers, notably in fields of international negotiations and access to classified documents. The European Council, which deliberately stayed away from negotiations on this issue, has announced that it is contesting the validity of the FA and will file a claim with the European Court of Justice in the event that "the European Commission or Parliament applies the agreement in a manner that undermines its interests and prerogatives."

The European Parliament has demonstrated its awareness of the new powers it has obtained under the Lisbon Treaty and its intention to make use of them — and it appears to have the support of the Commission in this regard. Only, the European Council, which directly represents EU member states, seems to be thwarted rather than empowered by the new rules. With this in mind, it is rowing against the tide to maintain the existing status quo. In the new framework defined by Lisbon, Europe’s three major institutions are marking out their territory, and the elected representatives of Europe’s citizens are moving quickly to claim new ground.

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