Top German court suspends ratification of EU's Lisbon Treaty

1st July 2009, Comments 0 comments

In a keenly awaited decision, court said the treaty -- aimed at streamlining decision-making in the EU-- must be put on ice until a law protecting national parliamentary powers is passed.

Karlsruhe -- Germany's top court on Tuesday delayed the ratification of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty but leaders expressed confidence that the landmark reforms would still be adopted soon.

In a keenly awaited decision, the Federal Constitutional Court said the treaty -- aimed at streamlining decision-making in the 27-nation bloc -- must be put on ice until a law protecting national parliamentary powers is passed.

"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," the court said.

The court also rejected complaints that the treaty would transfer too much power to Brussels and said the reforms were fundamentally in line with the country's laws.

That led Chancellor Angela Merkel to hail the ruling as a "good day for the Lisbon Treaty".

"The important message of the day is that the Lisbon Treaty has cleared another significant hurdle. I am very pleased about that," Merkel told reporters in Berlin after the judgement.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: "I am sure that the treaty will be ratified this year."

In Brussels, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was also upbeat about the treaty's future.

"I am confident that we can complete the process of ratification ... in all countries by the autumn," he said.

The treaty -- which aims not only to make the EU run more smoothly but also seeks to give the bloc a stronger voice on the world stage -- must be ratified by all 27 member states before it can come into force.

To speed up ratification in Germany, lawmakers will hold special sessions on August 26 and September 8 to pass a law that satisfies the court's demands.

A European affairs analyst at the Bertelsmann Foundation, Joachim Fritz-Vannahme, said he thought the process would now run rapidly.

"I can well expect this to happen as quickly as possible so that the ratification ... is not slowed down any more," he said.

The foreign minister of Sweden, which is due to take the EU helm on Wednesday, also said he was unconcerned about the decision.

"There is no major dissent on the political scene in Germany on this particular issue," Carl Bildt told journalists.

France's new secretary of state for foreign affairs, Pierre Lellouche, on his first official visit to Berlin, told reporters he saw a "real consensus on the German side" and that he had "received assurances that Germany will be ready by early September" to ratify the treaty.

Although a large majority in both houses of the German parliament approved the treaty, the country's president, Horst Koehler, has delayed signing the document pending the court's decision.

While it seems like the treaty will be ratified in Germany in September, the document's rocky road to adoption may still throw up some tricky pitfalls as three other countries -- the Czech Republic, Ireland and Poland -- have still not signed.

Ireland, which voted against the treaty last year, will hold a second referendum, probably in October, after receiving guarantees the treaty would not affect issues close to voters' hearts, such as military neutrality and abortion.

Recent polls have shown the Irish are more likely to vote in favour of the reforms the second time around as the global financial crisis has hit the former "Celtic Tiger" economy harder than most.

The eurosceptic Czech and Polish presidents have said they will not sign the treaty until Ireland has voted again.

And fears are growing in Brussels that Britain could yet torpedo the treaty if, as polls suggest, the eurosceptic Conservative party comes to power in elections that must be held before June 2010.

Conservative leader David Cameron has vowed to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if he becomes prime minister, with surveys indicating that Britain would vote decisively against it.

If the Lisbon Treaty were to come into force, the EU would do away with the current unwieldy system of the rotating presidency in favour of the selection of a leader for a limited term.

A powerful foreign policy supremo would also be appointed.

The treaty itself is a watered-down version of the European constitution that was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

Juergen Oeder/AFP/Expatica

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