Klaus unmoved by German constitutional court verdict on Lisbon treaty

Photo: European Commission

Ratification of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty crept one step closer to conclusion this week when Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled the documents is compatible with the country’s de facto constitution. Those, however, who think this latest legal clarification has done anything to mollify Lisbon’s opponents would be mistaken – the Czech president Václav Klaus says for him, the German decision changes nothing.

Photo: European Commission
The German verdict can be summed up as “Yes, but…”, indeed “Ja, Aber…” was the headline in many German newspapers on Wednesday morning. Most importantly for Lisbon’s supporters, the court found unanimously that the EU’s reform treaty did not contravene Germany’s de facto constitution, the post-war Basic Law, as had been claimed by the plaintiffs in the case.

The “but”, however, was that the court suspended ratification until an accompanying bill is amended to give the German parliament greater say over any future transfer of powers to Brussels. The Bundestag will hold special sessions to approve the amendment, probably before September’s federal elections in Germany.

Václav Klaus
The clarification, however, has not satisfied the Czech president Václav Klaus, one of the treaty’s biggest opponents. Writing in a column for Mladá fronta Dnes newspaper on Thursday, he dismissed the verdict as predictable. More important, he wrote, was that the real question was this:

Do we – the citizens of Europe – want greater integration or do we not? Do we want more and more power at a European level or not? Do we want more centralisation in Europe, or not? All this, writes the Czech president, is contained in the European Constitution, now known as the Lisbon Treaty, and fundamental debate over these questions should continue.

Germany is one of four countries which has not completed ratification. If, as expected, the Bundestag passes the aforementioned amendment, Germany will finally be in a position to deposit the instrument of ratification, thus completing ratification.

Poland’s president Lech Kaczynski has already signed the bill allowing him to ratify Lisbon, but has not signed the actual instrument of ratification, and says it is pointless to do so until the people of Ireland have voted on the treaty.

Ireland will hold a second referendum in October, after the Irish people rejected the document in June 2008. New guarantees negotiated last month by the EU are designed to reassure Irish voters and ensure a “Yes” vote this time around.

And finally the Czech president Václav Klaus refuses to sign the instrument of ratification, despite it being passed in both houses of parliament. Mr Klaus says he will wait for the outcome of any new challenge to Lisbon in the Czech constitutional court, something that could take months. Further, he believes that the guarantees given to Ireland amount to an amendment of the treaty itself, which requires separate approval by the Czech parliament. And finally, he – like President Kaczynski – says all this is moot until the Irish have their say.