Two years after the French and Dutch rejected the European Constitution, leaders of the 27 EU nations are signing the new Treaty of Lisbon today, aimed to strengthen union decision-making. Unlike the previous document, this one does not require nation-by-nation referendums to be ratified. That's caused a tremendous political headache for Gordon Brown, who no-showed today's photo opportunity, to the consternation of EU bigwigs, says AFP.
Only Ireland is offering a referendum to its citizens, and only because it is constitutionally obligated to do so. The new treaty drops quasi-national elements of the constitution, such as an EU anthem and flag, but retains a permanent EU president, rather than the current rotating leadership, and a foreign policy chief. It trims the number of decisions that require unanimous support, reducing national vetoes.