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Europe

Germany's top court gives green light for Lisbon Treaty but delays ratification

Germany's highest court has ruled Tuesday that the Lisbon Treaty on European Union reform is compatible with German basic law, but withheld approval for immediate ratification.

EU flag in front of the Brandenburg Gate

The Lisbon Treaty has been ratified by most EU members

Germany's highest court ruled on Tuesday that the European Union's Lisbon reform treaty was compatible with German basic law but demanded changes to domestic legislation before the treaty can be formally ratified.

"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 Federal Constitutional Court said.

"The court is confident that the last barrier for adopting the ratification document will be cleared."

The decision by the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe removes one of several remaining hurdles for the treaty, which aims to give the 27-nation bloc stronger leadership, a more effective foreign policy and a fairer decision-making system. All members of the bloc must ratify the document for it to take effect.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks in Brussels

Chancellor Angela Merkel has championed the treaty

The German parliament has already approved the treaty, but the necessary signature from President Horst Koehler is missing. He said he won't sign until the outcome of the court proceedings is known.

There are still three other countries holding up the process: Ireland, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Ireland is set to hold another referendum on the text later this year, after its devastating no vote last year. Polls now indicate a swing in favor of the treaty.

The Polish parliament has approved the treaty, but President Lech Kaczynski says he won't sign until after the Irish vote. Czech President Vaclav Klaus says he will wait until the last minute to add his signature.

Undermining Sovereignty

German opponents of the Lisbon Treaty had argued that the document undercuts German sovereignty. They say that the country's constitution would be subject to European law and say the constitutional court – which is deciding on the treaty on Tuesday – would lose its authority.

Plaintiffs include members of the far-left political party Die Linke and conservative federal MP Peter Gauweiler from the CSU party. Gauweiler said he feared the treaty would undermine the German parliament's authority.

"The only option left for the German parliament then would be to implement the (EU's) decision," he says.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble

Schaeuble says the treaty does not contradict the German constitution

More democratic

Supporters of the Lisbon Treaty dismiss such fears, and insist that Germany and Europe would become more democratic and more transparent.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, from the CSU's sister conservative CDU party, says the treaty would protect the German constitution, not undermine it. Schaeuble says the constitution's preamble, dating from 1949, states that Germany wants to be an equal member of a unified Europe which works towards world peace.

"From the beginning, this constitution was based on European unity," he says.

ca/AFP/AP
Editor: Trinity Hartman

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