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Politics

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Berlin suspend sa ratification du traité de Lisbonne

by Bruno Odent

Berlin Suspends its Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty

Translated Sunday 5 July 2009, by Henry Crapo

Germany. The Constitutional Court objects to failures of democracy in the European text, in particular, with respect to transport and national laws.

A surprising new obstacle arises in the process of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty [1]: the German Constitutional Court announced yesterday [2] that is is suspending the German ratification of the treaty, adopted several months ago by the parliamentary route, until an accompanying law preserving the rights of the Bundestag and Bundesrat [3] can be promulgated.

Acting on a complaint registered by the deputies of Die Linke, on one hand, and by the right wing Euro-sceptics, on the other, the court decided that the treaty was certainly "compatible" with the constitution. But added that its adoption must be conditioned by a new arsenal of national law designed to prevent Brussels from trampling on citizens’ rights. In other words, if the judges toward whom the watchful eyes of the European "elites" had been turned have not condemned the text, they have at least expressed the need to constrain it seriously in order to preserve the rights of citizens.

The decision illustrates yet once more the deficiencies of democracy in the European text, the deficiencies that were the chief reasons for its rejection at each attempt for ratification these past four years. After the unproductive presentation of the European constitution, carving in granite the laws of neo-liberalism, rejected in the French and Dutch referenda, its clone adopted in Lisbon has likewise been subjected to a veritable obstacle course. Its future depends, as we all know, on the outcome of the Irish referendum, where the Irish people have been asked to vote again in the fall, having already once said "No".

The decision by the judges in Karlruhe, which is the seat of the Constitutional Court, could not be more specific. It emphasizes that because of a "deficit of structural democracy" at the level of the European Union (EU), the rights of co-decision by the German parliament must be clearly stated by law. In the opinion of the court, this will be the only way to "guarantee the effectiveness of the right to vote" for German citizens, and to "keep an eye out" that the EU "does not stray outside the competences it has been granted".

The starting gun for a foot race has been fired in Berlin, that the accompanying law demanded by the Constitutional Court be drafted and passed by the Bundestag as quickly as possible. The parties of the big coalition (CDU and SPD) [4] have held emergency meetings, and the Chancellor Angela Merkel has quickly announced that that the Bundestag will be asked to interrupt its summer vacation, to meet on 26 August to begin the process of ratification of the law, which must be promulgated by 8 September at the latest. The smallest new detail can thus have a calamitous effect on the ratification process in Ireland and elsewhere (see the accompanying article [5] ). It may well also have an effect on the legislative elections planned in Germany at the end of September.

Despite the very large majority in the hands of the social-democratic and christian-democratic parties, it is not impossible that this hurried process of ratification will arouse strong reactions in public opinion. According to recent polls, a huge majority of citizens (70% to 85% of persons polled) continue to ask for a referendum on the subject, a referendum the outcome of which seems very uncertain. The organization of a popular consultation would be the only way, according to Die Linke, to restore its "lost legitimacy" to the process of ratification. It is not clear that this debate will not interfere with the legislative campaigns. And this, as they observe from the headquarters of Die Linke in Berlin, is not the sort of thing to be very reassuring to "the parties to the neo-liberal concensus".

[1As the somewhat revised version of the proposed European constitution is called.

[230 June

[3The two chambers of the German parliament

[4Christian democratic and social democratic parties

[5by the directeur of l’Humanité, now a European deputy


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