EU Reform Treaty clears hurdles in Denmark, Austria, Germany
Merkel: It would provide a solid basis for Europe to move forward.
The parliaments of Denmark and Austria on Thursday formally ratified the European Union's Treaty of Lisbon, raising to 11 the overall number of member states that have already formalized the text.
On the same day, lawmakers in the country that was at the forefront of efforts to agree on what is also known as the EU's Reform Treaty, Germany, also gave their preliminary backing.
The lower house of the German parliament, the Bundestag, approved the treaty with 515 votes in favor, 58 against and one abstention, assuring a considerably higher show of support than the required two-thirds majority.
A second and final vote is now expected to take place in Germany's upper house of parliament next month.
Speaking ahead of the vote, Chancellor Angela Merkel described the treaty as "good for Europe" and a "win for Germany."
It would provide a solid basis for Europe to move forward, said the chancellor, who was one of the main moving forces behind negotiations towards agreeing the treaty.
Through the treaty Europe would grow stronger and more self-confident than before, Merkel said.
She highlighted the introduction of more majority votes as a positive factor.
In Denmark, parliament ratified the reform treaty with a clear majority, 90 to 25, while 64 members of parliament, including Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, were absent from the 179-seat parliament during the vote. There were no abstentions.
The government had earlier concluded that the Lisbon Treaty did not require a specific referendum as some parties had called for.
The populist Danish People's Party, that otherwise has provided backing for Rasmussen's minority government in recent years, voted against the ratification.
Earlier Thursday, Austria's upper house of parliament had ratified the treaty with the support of the ruling Social Democrats, the conservative People's Party and the opposition Greens.
The two right-wing opposition parties, the FPOe and the BZOe, voted against it, mirroring the vote in the Austrian lower house.
The treaty must now be signed by President Heinz Fischer for it to be ratified, but this is a mere formality under the Austrian system of government.
The vote was welcomed by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
"I would like to welcome the positive conclusion of the parliamentary process on the Treaty of Lisbon by the Austrian Parliament today," Barroso said in a statement.
"The treaty provides for a more effective, democratic and accountable union that is also stronger externally. I would like to thank the Austrian Government for its active contribution during the negotiations and pay tribute to the Austrian Parliament for the swift approval of the Treaty," he added.
The news was not all positive for the ratification process as a euro-sceptic Czech parliament asked the nation's Constitutional Court to review the treaty.
The Senate voted 48-22 to have the high court rule whether the Lisbon Treaty is constitutional, a move that is expected to drag out the ratification process in the Czech Republic.
The proposal was initiated by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's rightwing Civic Democrats.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who founded the party, is a treaty critic, but has pledged not to block its ratification.
The treaty, which is designed to improve decision-making in the expanded EU, must be ratified by all 27 member states before it can come into force.
Ireland is the only EU country that plans to hold a referendum on the treaty, which EU officials hope will come into force on January 1, 2009. The Irish vote is scheduled for June 12.
No votes in referendums in France and the Netherlands in mid-2005 ended attempts to ratify a more ambitious European Constitution, leading to the drawing up of the Treaty of Lisbon.
EU leaders -- including the Czech Republic's Topolanek -- signed the treaty in December in the Portuguese capital.
The treaty has now passed parliaments in 11 EU countries: Denmark, Austria, Portugal, Slovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, Romania and France.
"The ratification process is now well advanced and I look forward to its successful conclusion," Barroso said in messages sent to Austria and Denmark.