German upper house passes EU Lisbon Treaty
The Bundesrat, which represents the governments of the 16 states, has passed the Treaty of Lisbon, the replacement for the 2005 failed European constitution. Opponents of the treaty plan to challenge it in courtsBerlin -- The upper house of the German parliament passed the Treaty of Lisbon by a large majority as expected on Friday, with only the city state of Berlin abstaining.
The European Union's reform accord thus easily cleared the two-thirds hurdle set by the German constitution.
The vote in the Bundesrat, which represents the governments of the 16 states, was the final legislative hurdle facing the treaty, which now goes to President Horst Koehler for approval.
In Brussels, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso welcomed the vote and drew attention to Chancellor Angela Merkel's role under the German EU presidency in the first half of last year.
"The Treaty of Lisbon would not have been possible without the commitment and leadership provided by Chancellor Merkel and the German presidency,"
Barroso noted that the treaty had now been approved by more than half the member states.
Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit announced at the last minute that the state, which is the only one to be governed by a coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and the socialist Left Party, would abstain. Under Bundesrat rules, Berlin's vote was counted as a No.
The Left, which draws most of its support in the formerly communist east of the country, sees the treaty as opposed to its social policies.
Wowereit, an SPD member, was sharply critical of his coalition partner.
Party leader Oskar Lafontaine had demonstrated that "the Left is not capable or ready to be in government at federal level," the mayor said ahead of the vote.
Opponents of the treaty signalled after the vote that they would mount a constitutional challenge through the courts.
Last month, the lower house passed the treaty by 514 votes for to 58 against, with one abstention. The 53 members of the Left made up the bulk of the opposition in the Bundestag.
Merkel, who was one of the main drivers of the process leading to the slimmed-down treaty, described it as "good for Europe" and a "win for Germany."
The treaty was signed in the Portuguese capital on December 13th. It replaces the failed European constitution, which was abandoned after the French and Dutch rejected it in referenda in 2005.
The 27 EU member states are being asked to ratify the treaty by the end of the year, ahead of elections to the European Parliament in 2009. Ireland is to hold a referendum on the treaty in June, and is the only country to do so.
The treaty, a complex legal document comprising a string of amendments to previous EU deals, aims to streamline decision-making through increased use of majority votes and creates the offices of an EU president and foreign policy supremo with clout.