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German Constitutional Court approves but delays Lisbon Treaty

The German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe today handed down a decision in which it approved the Lisbon Treaty but delayed its ratification. According to the Court, there are no decisive constitutional objections to the Act Approving the Treaty of Lisbon. The Lisbon treaty is as such compatible with the German basic law (Grundgesetz). Moreover, in the view of the Constitutional Court, the treaty would not lead to the formation of a EU state but instead the EU would remain “an association of sovereign states to which the principle of conferral applies”.

According to Andreas Vosskuhle, the presiding judge, “[i]f one wanted to summarize 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 changes that the Court asks for pertain to the law which regulates the German parliament’s involvement in the implementation of European law. This needs to be strengthened before the ratification process can continue.

After the Lisbon Treaty was approved by parliamentary ratification in Germany on 23 May 2008, a number of petitions were made to the Constitutional Court asking for an assessment of the Treaty’s compatibility with German law.

It is to be expected that the German government will push for a fast change of the affected legislation. It remains to be seen, however, if this will be done before the 27 September when parliamentary elections are being held in Germany. At least European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is confident, commenting the German Constitutional Court’s judgment by saying that “the court has cleared the way for a swift conclusion of the German ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon.” Chancellor Merkel was more modest in her assessment, welcoming the court’s decision by saying that it was “a good day for the Lisbon Treaty.

At the moment, 23 of the 27 member States of the EU have ratified the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish are to vote on the Lisbon Treaty in October. Both Poland and the Czech Republic are likely to also ratify once Germany and Ireland, which is likely to approve the Treaty this time around, have erased their respective obstacles for ratification.

A press release (in English) on the judgment is available here. A preliminary English version of the decision has also been published.

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