by Dion Kramer
The monastery of Jerónimos in Lisbon is a busy place. Especially in the scourging August sun, the long line of tourists wanting to enter this World Heritage Site dating back to the 1500s famous for its ‘Pasteís de Nata’ is frightening. Rather unfortunately, not many of those tourists seem to notice the marble plaque on the left hand when queuing up to finally enter the monastery where they can find the tomb of Vasco da Gama.
If they wouldn’t be rushed up by security personnel they might in fact have a chance to study the depiction of the signatories of the Portuguese Accession Treaty and the Treaty of Lisbon, which are displayed brotherly side by side. In fact, the monastery was the place where on 12 June 1985 the ceremony took place marking the Portuguese singing of the Treaty of Accession to the European Communities, including a speech by Commission president Jacques Delors. More than 22 years later, the courtyard of the monastery would also be the place where the Treaty of Lisbon was signed (13 December 2007).
‘Lisbon’ paved the way to a European Union with more policy competences and without the complicated ‘pillar structure’; a close to equal status of the European Parliament in many policy fields; and an official incorporation of a Charter of Fundamental Rights. Essentially a replacement of the Constitutional Treaty that was voted down by the French and Dutch citizens in referendums, the Lisbon Treaty remains controversial as the ‘Unconstitutional Constitutional Treaty’.
The line of tourists impatiently seeking entrance to a beautiful relic of a lost past while ignoring a modest attempt to celebrate contemporary efforts to European cooperation – however flawed – might very well serve as a metaphor for the most recent history of European integration.