Monday, 13 July 2009

German Constitutional Court delays ratification of Lisbon Treaty, demanding a law to protect the rights of national parliament

On 30 June the German Constitutional Court ruled to withhold approval for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, demanding a law to guarantee the rights of the German Parliament in the EU decision-making process. (FAZ, 30 June)

A press release from the Court said that the Upper and Lower Houses of the German Parliament “have not been accorded sufficient rights of participation in European lawmaking procedures and treaty amendment procedures.” It also said that, “If one wanted to summarise this result, one could say: the constitution says ‘yes’ to the Lisbon Treaty but demands that parliament’s right to participation be strengthened at the national level”. (Court press release,FAZ, 30 June)

German ratification of the Treaty could be delayed until after the German national elections on 27 September because the Bavarian Christian Democrat CSU party and the Social Democrat SPD party, both of which are in government, have opposed fast-tracking the new law.  With Czech President Vaclav Klaus vowing to be the last one to sign the Treaty, the German ruling offers him the opportunity to further delay the final step in Czech ratification. (Welt, 30 June;Handelsblatt, 3 July)

The German Constitutional Court ruling raises serious questions about the role of national parliaments and the Lisbon Treaty, and whether similar democratic safeguards should not be required for all national parliaments in other member states. In an analysis in English, German weekly Der Spiegel noted that the decision “very elegantly demolishes the old European idea that the recognised democratic deficits in the EU would disappear completely of their own accord by enhancing the rights of the European Parliament”. (Spiegel, 7 July)

This message has been echoed by publications acrossEurope, with French newspaper L’Alsace saying, “The German court has signalled that it is necessary – and possible – to convey rights upon the national parliaments in European decision-making. It’s a pity such a message was not evoked by France”. Dutch magazine Elsevier wrote, “What does this judgment mean for the sovereignty of other member states? Should they not also build a guarantee into their own legislation in order to secure their right to self-determination?” (Elsevier, 30 June)

Meanwhile, Irish PM Brian Cowen has announced that the second Irish referendum on the Treaty will take place on 2 October.

In a debate in the House of Lords UK Europe Minister Glenys Kinnock confirmed that Ireland would be voting on exactly the same text of the Treaty the second time around, saying that the Irish ‘guarantees’, “do not change the Lisbon treaty; the European Council conclusions are very clear on them. The Lisbon treaty, as debated and decided by our Parliament, will not be changed and, on the basis of these guarantees, Ireland will proceed to have a second referendum in October. Nothing in the treaty will change and nothing in the guarantees will change the treaty as your Lordships agreed it.” (Hansard, 1 July; Irish Times, 9 July)

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