Germany’s highest court ruled yesterday that the EU’s Lisbon reform treaty was compatible with national law, but demanded changes to domestic legislation before the treaty can be ratified.
The decision by the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe removes one of several remaining hurdles for the treaty, which aims to give the bloc stronger leadership, a more effective foreign policy and a fairer decision-making system.
All 27 member states must ratify the Lisbon Treaty for it to take effect.
“To sum up, the Basic Law says ‘yes’ to the Lisbon Treaty but demands a strengthening of parliamentary responsibilities at the national level,” presiding judge Andreas Vosskuhle said, referring to Germany’s post-war Constitution. “The Court is confident that the final hurdle before ratification will be cleared quickly.”
The Lisbon Treaty is a watered-down version of the EU constitution that was vetoed by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
The new document was dealt a heavy blow one year ago when Irish voters rejected it in a referendum.
Ireland is due to vote again in early October after winning assurances from EU partners that the treaty will not threaten Irish stances on abortion, taxation and military neutrality.
The German legal challenge came from more than 50 deputies in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, among them members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc and the far-left Linke, or “left” party.
Maverick conservative Peter Gauweiler from the Bavarian Christian Social Union led the fight against Lisbon, arguing it would allow EU leaders to circumvent their national parliaments and push decisions through in Brussels instead.
In a nod to those concerns, the court said an appendix to the law that was approved by the lower and upper houses of parliament last year, paving the way for ratification, must be altered before German President Horst Koehler can sign off on it.
BALANCE OF POWER
Specifically, the court said the appendix needed to make clear that both houses, the Bundestag and Bundesrat, had a role to play in shaping decisions taken in Brussels.
Norbert Roettgen, parliamentary floor leader for Merkel’s conservatives, said the ruling parties planned to agree the required changes by early September. The Bundestag lower house could then vote on the draft law on Sept. 8, he said.
The core complaint from the rebel lawmakers — that the Lisbon treaty violated German law — was rejected.
In addition to the Irish vote, the treaty faces other hurdles. Euro-skeptic presidents in the Czech Republic and Poland have refused to rubber-stamp the treaty pending the result of the second Irish referendum.
The EU is racing to get the treaty ratified by all 27 members by the end of the year to prevent such a move.